"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

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Punishing “Predators” Will Not Save Us

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2017 at 4:46 pm
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Protesters attend a “Me Too” rally to denounce sexual harassment and assaults of women in Los Angeles, California, on November 12, 2017. (Photo: Ronen Tivony / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Oldspeak: “The powerful men who’ve been outed for harassment, assault and other abuses are not going to prison, for the most part — and even if they did, would they become less harmful? Punishment-based approaches to social harms are the default in our society, but they have consistently availed us nothing. Few rapists ever see the inside of a jail cell, whereas 86 percent of women who have spent time in jail are survivors of sexual violenceMarginalized women face continued criminalization for acting in their own defense, and across the board, US prisoners face alarming rates of sexual violence while confined. But in this supposed watershed moment, high-profile white women, whose voices have been loudly amplified, have offered little critique of the carceral and punitive approaches that have only added additional layers of abuse and exploitation to an already violent society

Are we creating an environment where survivors are more supported? Has the average, working-class survivor been given new tools with which to halt their abuse? What about survivors living in the margins, whose cries are often unheard, even when they have disclosed? And will this fleeting moment, of simply naming and condemning “predators,” bring neglected survivors closer to the care and resources they need? Will it transform the people who harmed them? I think not….

So, what is this cultural moment accomplishing? For one thing, it is feeding a conflation that will ultimately be weaponized against the marginalized. I know no one wants to hear it, but let’s challenge ourselves to take a look backward, at the history of criminalization and punishment. There have been other historical moments when a lewd comment or gesture (or the perception or accusation of such) evoked the same rage and response as an all-out assault. ​Throughout US history, in the eyes of the law and white society, Black and Brown men and boys have been viewed as potential predators. Historically, those who have been deemed “predators” have been ensnared by social mechanisms that were supposedly geared toward “public safety.” If you’re thinking, “the men who are being brought down now are white and powerful, so these situations aren’t comparable,” I would ask you to consider what happens when the high-profile white women who’ve taken the wheel, in this social moment, get out of the car and move on to other things. That car will still be in motion, but who will be driving? And who will they run down?….

Treating people who commit sexual violence as outliers, who can simply be ejected from our society, will not unravel the norms, policies and practices that make sexual violence inevitable in this society. Pretending we can effectively address the problem with a smattering of takedowns will actually reinforce those norms, policies and practices.” –Kelly Hayes

“Yeeeesssss…. Brilliant, contextualized and nuanced analysis of the current media frenzy around harasser shaming. Focusing attention on well known personalities doesn’t allow for the deep critical analysis necessary to truly deal with root causes of behavioral patterns  grounded in patriarchal systems of racial and gender based oppression and domination that have been in place for eons. Will we change how we rear our male youth? Will we stop imbuing them with madness like  “boys don’t cry”, “be aggressive” “be competitive”, “dominate the competition”, “don’t be a pussy”, “you (insert insulted behaviour here) like a girl”?  Will we stop condoning violence when “justified”? Telling them feelings, emotions, compassion & empathy are only for girls? Will we stop teaching them to exploit others weaknesses?  We see this violence, abuse and exploitation replicated in how we treat other species and our Great Mother Earth. Is there any wonder that violence, abuse and oppression of women is the norm here? A pervasive, global phenomenon in this barbaric culture of cruelty? These conditions will not change with more punishment & condemnation of  “predators”. These conditions will not change due to virtue signaling women’s marches, rallies & protests.   Actual change will require root level rethinking of how we raise men.  It will require deprogramming and decolonizing of minds and ways of being. How we define manhood. Of the behaviors reinforced and condoned by men. A global renunciation of pathological patriarchy. Short of that sadly we can expect more of the same, ad infinitum.” –Jevon

Written By Kelly Hayes @ Truthout:

Ten years before Alyssa Milano turned #MeToo into a viral hashtag, the concept was created by Tarana Burke, a Black grassroots organizer, as a means to help survivors, particularly survivors of color, get the support they need. Recently, the hashtag quickly galvanized a post-Weinstein movement to expose men whose harassment and assault had gone either unseen or unacknowledged. As the hashtag gained popularity, Burke acknowledged feeling “a sense of dread,” because “something that was part of my life’s work was going to be co-opted and taken from me and used for a purpose that I hadn’t originally intended.” But within days, Burke had been credited for the concept, and granted some amount of attention, which for many, was enough to silence concerns about whether the moment reflected Burke’s crucial purpose — to help and support survivors.

Punishment-based approaches to social harms are the default in our society, but they have consistently availed us nothing.

“What the Me Too campaign really does, and what Tarana Burke has really enabled us to do, is put the focus back on the victims,” Milano said in an interview with Robin Roberts.

But has the evolution of this cultural moment, as Milano claims, actually put the focus on victims? In recent weeks, I have seen a steady stream of allegations, but what I have not noticed is a larger public conversation about how to materially and emotionally support victims. I have seen no increase in advocacy for programs that help survivors access resources. Conversations about prevention are usually reduced to catchphrases about “teaching your sons not to rape” — a process that has no established road map in a culture of rape. And then there are the takedowns, which are treated as ends in themselves, as though robbing some powerful men of some of the trappings of fame materially alters the landscape of sexual violence.

Somehow, in the hands of powerful white women like Milano, a moment of solidarity and a discussion of how we can support survivors became a large-scale mission to take “these men” down. So, they’re being brought down. Now what?

The powerful men who’ve been outed for harassment, assault and other abuses are not going to prison, for the most part — and even if they did, would they become less harmful? Punishment-based approaches to social harms are the default in our society, but they have consistently availed us nothing. Few rapists ever see the inside of a jail cell, whereas 86 percent of women who have spent time in jail are survivors of sexual violence. Marginalized women face continued criminalization for acting in their own defense, and across the board, US prisoners face alarming rates of sexual violence while confined. But in this supposed watershed moment, high-profile white women, whose voices have been loudly amplified, have offered little critique of the carceral and punitive approaches that have only added additional layers of abuse and exploitation to an already violent society.

Will this fleeting moment, of simply naming and condemning “predators,” bring neglected survivors closer to the care and resources they need?

It is possible that renewed interest in rape survivor Cyntoia Brown’s case could mark the beginning of a larger public dialogue about the criminalization of survivors. But given Cyntoia’s extraordinary circumstances — including the fact that she was trafficked as a child and has pursued higher education while incarcerated — it seems more likely that her case will be approached as an anomaly, rather than one that exposes a system that grinds survivors under. Meanwhile, the emphasis of the vast majority of public conversations remains on the allegations and the perpetrators, not on supporting survivors.

I will admit, I was here for the takedowns, for a moment. I am not sorry rapists and those who have harassed are losing their jobs or the respect of their peers. What I am worried about is what we are building right now, and what we are not building.

Are we creating an environment where survivors are more supported? Has the average, working-class survivor been given new tools with which to halt their abuse? What about survivors living in the margins, whose cries are often unheard, even when they have disclosed? And will this fleeting moment, of simply naming and condemning “predators,” bring neglected survivors closer to the care and resources they need? Will it transform the people who harmed them? I think not.

As a Native person, I am acutely aware of sexual violence, and the ways in which it is invisibilized. Fifty-six percent of Native women have experienced sexual violence — which means Native women are 2.5 times as likely to experience sexual violence as any other group. I do not expect that the current flurry of celebrity takedowns will have much impact on the violence Native people experience, or even spur a greater awareness of that violence, or the transformative efforts to overcome it.

So, what is this cultural moment accomplishing? For one thing, it is feeding a conflation that will ultimately be weaponized against the marginalized. I know no one wants to hear it, but let’s challenge ourselves to take a look backward, at the history of criminalization and punishment. There have been other historical moments when a lewd comment or gesture (or the perception or accusation of such) evoked the same rage and response as an all-out assault. ​Throughout US history, in the eyes of the law and white society, Black and Brown men and boys have been viewed as potential predators. Historically, those who have been deemed “predators” have been ensnared by social mechanisms that were supposedly geared toward “public safety.” If you’re thinking, “the men who are being brought down now are white and powerful, so these situations aren’t comparable,” I would ask you to consider what happens when the high-profile white women who’ve taken the wheel, in this social moment, get out of the car and move on to other things. That car will still be in motion, but who will be driving? And who will they run down?

We already know.

When we demand total disposal of “bad” people as a social standard, we are creating a social mechanism. When we put serial rapists in the same category as people who say, or once said, terrible things, we are creating a social mechanism. When we foster that conflation, and call everyone it encompasses “predator,” we are creating a social mechanism. When we demand the disposal of all such “predators,” we are creating a social mechanism. Sometimes, those mechanisms are enacted at a personal level; sometimes, they are codified, like the “three strikes” laws Hillary Clinton pushed forward by vilifying Black children.

Personally, I am working to root the word “predator” out of my vocabulary because we aren’t hunting for predators in an otherwise pristine forest. The forest itself is on fire.

When everyone who broke a law, any law, became a “criminal,” a social mechanism was born.

When Black children became “super predators,” a social mechanism was born — one that fed Black children to the prison industrial complex.

When conflations and generalizations that render people disposable are loosed upon the world, I worry about where they will land, because, on a long enough timeline, they will always land in the same places.

Personally, I am working to root the word “predator” out of my vocabulary. I always knew it was a term that dehumanized, but some harms would provoke me to spit out a word I knew was harmful and ugly. However, in the current climate of conflation, the word “predator” could mean anything, and therefore means nothing. It’s not a meaningful characterization. It’s a garbage chute into which people are being tossed.

If you’re thinking, “Well, these men are garbage,” I would counter that if that’s the case, we are still swimming in trash, and merely celebrating the removal of a few Hefty bags.

As much as we would like to “other” harassers and abusers — marking them as separate from ourselves — “predators” are human beings, as are your friends and family members, and many of you, who have at times crossed lines and broken boundaries. I believe that many such people can transform their harms. My first concern, however, is to support the healing of survivors, which is what I thought I was doing when I wrote my #MeToo post. In truth, that’s what #MeToo still means to me, because the need for us to find each other and heal and love, and our ability to transform the world that hurt us — that’s all still there when we are ready to do the harder work.

People like Tarana Burke were doing that difficult work long before this viral moment, and will continue to do so long after it has passed.

Treating people who commit sexual violence as outliers, who can simply be ejected from our society, will not unravel the norms, policies and practices that make sexual violence inevitable in this society. Pretending we can effectively address the problem with a smattering of takedowns will actually reinforce those norms, policies and practices.

We aren’t hunting for predators in an otherwise pristine forest. The forest itself is on fire. It always has been. And when the predator hunt ends, we’ll still be standing in the flames.

=========================================================================

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes is Truthout’s social media strategist, as well as a contributing writer. She is also a direct action trainer and a cofounder of The Chicago Light Brigade and the direct action collective Lifted Voices. Kelly’s contribution to Truthout’s anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? stems from her work as an organizer and her ongoing analysis of movements in the United States. Her work can also be found on her blog, Transformative Spaces, in Yes! Magazine, BGD and the BGD anthology The Solidarity Struggle: How People of Color Succeed and Fail At Showing Up For Each Other In the Fight For Freedom. Kelly is also a movement photographer whose work is featured in the “Freedom and Resistance” exhibit of the DuSable Museum of African American History.

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Healing Begins With Gratitude

In Uncategorized on November 28, 2017 at 1:49 am
gratitude-flower

Photo by Harry Burk.

Oldspeak: “All you need is already within you, only you must approach your self with reverence and love. Self-condemnation and self-distrust are grievous errors. Your constant flight from pain and search for pleasure is a sign of love you bear for your self, all I plead with you is this: make love of your self perfect. Deny yourself nothing — glue your self infinity and eternity and discover that you do not need them; you are beyond…..

It is always the false that makes you suffer, the false desires and fears, the false values and ideas, the false relationships between people. Abandon the false and you are free of pain; truth makes happy, truth liberates” –Maharaj

The great open secret of gratitude is that it is not dependent on external circumstance. It’s like a setting or channel that we can switch to at any moment, no matter what’s going on around us. It helps us connect to our basic right to be here, like the breath does. It’s a stance of the soul. In systems theory, each part contains the whole. Gratitude is the kernel that can flower into everything we need to know.

Thankfulness loosens the grip of the industrial growth society by contradicting its predominant message: that we are insufficient and inadequate. The forces of late capitalism continually tell us that we need more—more stuff, more money, more approval, more comfort, more entertainment. The dissatisfaction it breeds is profound. It infects people with a compulsion to acquire that delivers them into the cruel, humiliating bondage of debt. So gratitude is liberating. It is subversive. It helps us realize that we are sufficient, and that realization frees us. Elders of indigenous cultures have retained this knowledge, and we can learn from their practices. -Johana Macy

 

“Whew. In this era of infinite growth society, where gluttonous hyperconsumption is viewed as occasion for hedonistic holiday celebrations, where more is never enough, where hungry ghosts rule,  Maharaj & Macy’s words of self-reverence, love and gratitude pierce the veils of illusion we’re shrouded in. In this time of the Great Turning, where the very peoples who are best equipped to heal this burning earth and the weitko infected humanity that is destroying it are under relentless assault, we would do well to make ourselves more familiar with their divine knowledge and ways of being. Develop the capacity to see our wounds, have compassion and gratitude for them and have the courage and strong determination to create space for our wounds and sickness to heal. Seeing that all we need to heal is within us. Not dependent on external circumstances. To be grateful for ALL, to find the liberation from pain, suffering and inadequacy that gratitude brings. To realize that we are Beyond. Beyond all the bullshit we take ourselves and “others” to be. To know that we are irrevocably inter-being with all that Is, and that there is nothing to fear. Renouncing, the false; judgement, separation, condemnation & hatred of self and “others” and seeing that All Is One, All Is Self. Make a habit of practicing gratitude. Cherish and enjoy your ride on this spiral of Life. You are perfect just as you are, here and now.” -Jevon

Written By Johana Macy @ Lion’s Roar:

We have received an inestimable gift. To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe—to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it—is a wonder beyond words. It is an extraordinary privilege to be accorded a human life, with self-reflexive consciousness that brings awareness of our own actions and the ability to make choices. It lets us choose to take part in the healing of our world.

Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.

In the Tibetan Buddhist path we are asked to pause before any period of fmeditative practice and precede it with reflection on the preciousness of a human life. This is not because we as humans are superior to other beings, but because we can “change the karma.” In other words, graced with self-reflexive consciousness, we are endowed with the capacity for choice—to take stock of what we are doing and change directions. We may have endured for eons of lifetimes as other life-forms, under the heavy hand of fate and the blind play of instinct, but now at last we are granted the ability to consider and judge and make decisions. Weaving our ever more complex neural circuits into the miracle of self-awareness, life yearned through us for the ability to know and act and speak on behalf of the larger whole. Now the time has come when by our own choice we can consciously enter the dance.

In Buddhist practice, that first reflection is followed by a second, on the brevity of this precious human life: “Death is certain; the time of death is uncertain.” That reflection awakens in us the precious gift of the present moment—to seize this chance to be alive right now on Planet Earth.

Even in the Dark

That our world is in crisis—to the point where survival of conscious life on Earth is in question—in no way diminishes the value of this gift; on the contrary. To us is granted the privilege of being on hand: to take part, if we choose, in the Great Turning to a just and sustainable society. We can let life work through us, enlisting all our strength, wisdom, and courage, so that life itself can continue.

There is so much to be done, and the time is so short. We can proceed, of course, out of grim and angry desperation. But the tasks proceed more easily and productively with a measure of thankfulness for life; it links us to our deeper powers and lets us rest in them. Many of us are braced, psychically and physically, against the signals of distress that continually barrage us in the news, on our streets, in our environment. As if to reduce their impact on us, we contract like a turtle into its shell. But we can choose to turn to the breath, the body, the senses—for they help us to relax and open to wider currents of knowing and feeling.

The great open secret of gratitude is that it is not dependent on external circumstance. It’s like a setting or channel that we can switch to at any moment, no matter what’s going on around us. It helps us connect to our basic right to be here, like the breath does. It’s a stance of the soul. In systems theory, each part contains the whole. Gratitude is the kernel that can flower into everything we need to know.

Thankfulness loosens the grip of the industrial growth society by contradicting its predominant message: that we are insufficient and inadequate. The forces of late capitalism continually tell us that we need more—more stuff, more money, more approval, more comfort, more entertainment. The dissatisfaction it breeds is profound. It infects people with a compulsion to acquire that delivers them into the cruel, humiliating bondage of debt. So gratitude is liberating. It is subversive. It helps us realize that we are sufficient, and that realization frees us. Elders of indigenous cultures have retained this knowledge, and we can learn from their practices.

Learning from the Onondaga

Elders of the six-nation confederacy of the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroquois, have passed down through the ages the teachings of the Great Peacemaker. A thousand years ago, they had been warring tribes, caught in brutal cycles of attack, revenge, and retaliation, when he came across Lake Ontario in a stone canoe. Gradually his words and actions won them over, and they accepted the Great Law of Peace. They buried their weapons under the Peace Tree by Lake Onondaga and formed councils for making wise choices together, and for self-governance. In the Haudenosaunee, historians recognize the oldest known participatory democracy and point to the inspiration it provided to Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and others in crafting the Constitution of the United States. That did not impede American settlers and soldiers from taking by force most of the Haudenosaunees’ land and decimating their populations.

Eventually accorded “sovereign” status, the Haudenosaunee nations—all except for the Onondaga—proceeded in recent decades to sue state and federal governments for their ancestral lands, winning settlements in cash and license for casinos. All waited and wondered what legal action would be brought by the Onondaga Nation, whose name means Keepers of the Central Fire and whose ancestral land, vastly larger than the bit they now control, extends in a wide swath from Pennsylvania to Canada. But the Onondaga elders and clan mothers continued to deliberate year after year, seeking consensus on this issue that would shape the fate of their people for generations to come. Finally, in the spring of 2005, they made their legal move. In their land rights claim, unlike that of any other indigenous group in America, they did not demand the return of any ancestral land or monetary compensation for it. They asked for one thing only: that it be cleaned up and restored to health for the sake of all who presently live on it, and for the sake of their children and children’s children.

To state and federal power-holders, this was asking a lot. The land is heavily contaminated by industrial development, including big chemical processing plants and a number of neglected toxic waste sites. Onondaga Lake, on whose shores stood the sacred Peace Tree, is considered to be more polluted with heavy metals than any in the country. Within a year, at the urging of the governor of New York, the court dismissed the Onondaga claim as invalid and too late.

On a bleak November afternoon, when the suit was still in process, I visited the Onondaga Nation—a big name for this scrap of land that looks like a postage stamp on maps of Central New York. I had come because I was moved by the integrity and vision of their land rights claim, and now I saw how few material resources they possess to pursue it. In the community center, native counselors described outreach programs for mental health and self-esteem, bringing young people together from all the haudenosaunee. To help with the expenses, other tribes had chipped in, but few contributions had been received from the richer ones.

They were eager for me to see the recently built school where young Onondagans, who choose not to go off the Nation to U.S.-run schools, can receive an education. a teacher named Frieda, who was serving for a while as a clan mother, had waited after hours to show me around. The central atrium she led me into was hung about with shields of a dozen clans— turtle clan, bear clan, frog—and on the floor illumined by the sky light was a large green turtle, beautifully wrought of inlaid wood. “here is where we gather the students for our daily morning assembly,” Frieda explained. “We begin, of course, with the thanksgiving. Not the real, traditional form of it, because that takes days. We do it very short, just twenty minutes or so.” Turning to gaze at her face, I sank down on a bench. She heard my silent request and sat down too. raising her right hand in a circling gesture that spiraled downward as the fingers closed, she began. “Let us gather our minds as one mind and give thanks to grandfather Sun, who rises each day to bring light so we can see each others’ faces and warmth for the seeds to grow.” on and on she continued, greeting and thanking the life-giving presences that bless and nourish us all. With each one—moon, waters, trees—that lovely gesture was repeated. “We gather our minds as one mind.”

My eyes stayed riveted on her. What I was receiving through her words and gesture felt like an intravenous injection, right into my bloodstream. This, I knew, can teach us how to survive, when all possessions and comforts have been lost. When our honored place in the world is taken from us, this practice can hold us together in dignity and clear mind.

What Frieda gave me is a staple of haudenosaunee culture. The Mohawks have written down similar words, in an equally short form, so the rest of us can have it too. known as the Mohawk Thanksgiving Prayer, it begins:

The People

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother

We are all thankful to our mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

And it concludes:

The Enlightened Teachers

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. We send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.

Now our minds are one.

The Creator

Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or great spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. for all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the creator.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.

The Spiral

There are hard things to face in our world today, if we want to be of use. Gratitude, when it’s real, offers no blinders. on the contrary, in the face of devastation and tragedy it can ground us, especially when we’re scared. It can hold us steady for the work to be done.

The activist’s inner journey appears to me like a spiral, interconnecting four successive stages or movements that feed into each other. These four are: 1) opening to gratitude, 2) owning our pain for the world, 3) seeing with new eyes, and 4) going forth. The sequence repeats itself, as the spiral circles round, but ever in new ways. The spiral is fractal in nature: it can characterize a lifetime or a project, and it can also happen in a day or several times a day.

The spiral begins with gratitude, because that quiets the frantic mind and brings us back to source. It reconnects us with basic goodness and our personal power. It helps us to be more fully present to our world. That grounded presence provides the psychic space for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world.

In owning this pain, and daring to experience it, we learn that our capacity to “suffer with” is the true meaning of compassion. We begin to know the immensity of our heart-mind and how it helps us to move beyond fear. What had isolated us in private anguish now opens outward and delivers us into wider reaches of our world as lover, world as self.

The truth of our inter-existence, made real to us by our pain for the world, helps us see with new eyes. It brings fresh understandings of who we are and how we are related to each other and the universe. We begin to comprehend our own power to change and heal. We strengthen by growing living connections with past and future generations, and our brother and sister species.

Then, ever again, we go forth into the action that calls us. With others whenever and wherever possible, we set a target, lay a plan, step out. We don’t wait for a blueprint or fail-proof scheme; for each step will be our teacher, bringing new perspectives and opportunities. Even when we don’t succeed in a given venture, we can be grateful for the chance we took and the lessons we learned. and the spiral begins again.

Then all the work I put my hand to
widens from turn to turn.

-Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Thanksgiving Distorts History And Sugarcoats Continuing State Violence Against Indigenous People

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2017 at 6:02 pm

 

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While often valorized as a time of celebration characterized by the benign coming together of friends and family, Thanksgiving is also a holiday that actively elides the genocidal violence that has made the US. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout, after Jean Leon Gerome Ferris)

Oldspeak: “Happy Indigenous Peoples Murder Day. :-< Words about the day from the perspective of a Indigenous American.” –Jevon

Written By Jaskiran Dhillon @ Truthout:

It’s that time of year again. Step into any retail outlet and one is immediately confronted with a plethora of pumpkin products and leafy, decorative centerpieces for the dinner table. Families gather in groups, big and small, to engage in some form of “giving thanks.” Gluttonous feasting and football are hallmarks of this annual, federal holiday that finds its roots back in the 1600s and the conventional trope of English pilgrims in Massachusetts. Less talked about, though, and even actively suppressed in some cases, are the ways that Thanksgiving — in material and symbolic practice — is yet another avenue for the distortion of colonial history through the elevation and circulation of settler memory and nostalgia. While often valorized and rationalized as a time of celebration characterized by the benign coming together of friends and family, it is also a holiday that actively elides the genocidal violence that has made the US. It is a state-sanctioned endorsement of the erasure of Indigenous peoples and their lived experiences and resistance efforts, both past and present.

The celebratory zeal of the day is part of the state’s machinery that allows us to abdicate political responsibility and turn a blind eye to the persistent colonial violence.

Stated otherwise: This holiday, like clockwork, ushers in more of the colonial same.

As a public scholar and educator who thinks deeply about colonial histories and contemporary realities, the widespread and normalized festivities during “Thanksgiving” have always made me feel profoundly uncomfortable. In particular, I’ve been troubled by the way this “holiday” reproduces notions of American benevolence and innocence, reinforcing the idea that the United States was born out of justice, liberty and goodwill instead of war, murder, slavery and the vicious seizure and occupation of Indigenous homelands (the real story). Thanksgiving tells the tale of peaceful settlement, of a conciliatory arrival at coexistence with the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. The celebratory zeal of the day reinforces collective and shared meaning of these nationalistic sentiments by keeping an imagined version of the United States alive in the hearts and minds of millions of white settlers and their descendants who, unquestionably, reap the material benefits from the immense harm that has been done, and continues to be done, to Indigenous lands and bodies. It is part of the state’s machinery that allows us to abdicate political responsibility and turn a blind eye to the persistent colonial violence that is so clearly evidenced in the criminalization and incarceration of Indigenous peoples, the ongoing dismissal and violation of treaty rights, the encroachment of extractive industries onto Indigenous homelands and sacred sites, and the rampant gender violence that has become part of the everyday realities for so many Indigenous women, children and youth — egregious violence that seems to exist outside the bounds of the law.

Thanksgiving is the symbolic embodiment of the story white Americans like to tell themselves about who they are and what they stand for.

Contrary to the well-rehearsed response that one often faces when offering an intellectual and political critique of Thanksgiving, it is not simply a “holiday.” Like Columbus Day and the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving is the symbolic embodiment of the story white Americans like to tell themselves about who they are and what they stand for. And this is what I tell my students when they ask me why I call for the critical interrogation of this so-called holiday.

For the past few months, I have been teaching an undergraduate/graduate seminar in the Global Studies program at The New School, my home university. It is a course that was designed to work in purposeful opposition to the unfailing denial of colonial history and ongoing violence against Indigenous peoples in the present that is so pervasive throughout the mainstream education systems (both secondary and post-secondary) and media outlets in the United States. In many ways, it serves as an antithesis to Thanksgiving itself. Grounded in a version of revolutionary red pedagogy advanced by Quechua scholar Sandy Grande, the class takes students on a journey through competing versions about the “truth” of the United States. It does so by excavating knowledge that has been deliberately subjugated, and by asking essential and difficult questions that destabilize what we think we know about the places where we build our lives.

Throughout the evolution of this course, my students have faced unsettling realities — including developing an awareness of their own complicity in reproducing colonial relations of domination. Week after week, students have collectively read the scholarship of Indigenous writers: a revolutionary move in its own right given the whiteness of the curriculum in most institutions of higher education. Week after week, they have systematically analyzed the colonial founding of what we now call the United States of America through anti-colonial accounts of history and politics. Week after week, they have pushed themselves, each other, and me, to reject depictions of Indigenous peoples as remnants of a bygone past and instead view them through the frame of the active presence. They are now recognizing them as leaders in a global fight for decolonization, freedom and environmental justice worldwide. They are coming to see them as communities of Nations who have been maintaining their own kinship relations and ways of being while living under conditions of violent occupation. They view them as the First Peoples of the territory many of my students call home. These discussions, not surprisingly, have also been characterized by the enduring question of how to actively organize alongside Indigenous peoples — responsibly and ethically, in ways that lift up Indigenous social movements for revolutionary change as opposed to co-opting or working against them, often without even knowing it.

This has not been an easy process for my students, nor is their (re)education complete. But it is a step in the right direction. More so, the collective work we have begun to do serves as an example of what is possible when we step back and adopt a more radical politics when it comes to challenging the social and political meaning of holidays like Thanksgiving. It gives us some sense of how we can tackle the intensely racist backdrop against which this “holiday” has emerged, and to think critically about what it would mean to support political sovereignty and self-determination for the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island, upon whose land all of us reside.

 

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Jaskiran Dhillon is a first generation academic and advocate who grew up on Treaty Six Cree/Métis Territory in Saskatchewan, Canada. Her work spans the fields of settler colonialism, anthropology of the state, anti-racist feminism, colonial violence and youth studies. Her first book, Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention (2017), provides a critical, ethnographic account of state interventions in the lives of urban Indigenous youth. She is currently an assistant professor of global studies and anthropology at The New School in New York City.

Vulnerability Is Strength

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2017 at 11:37 pm

The strength of vulnerability is not self-centered. It is like the young spring leaf that can withstand strong winds and flourish. This vulnerability is incapable of being hurt, whatever the circumstances. Vulnerability is without centre as the self. It has an extraordinary strength, vitality and beauty.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti, “Letters To The Schools, Vol. 2”

Do you see the necessity of being open and vulnerable? If you do not see the truth of that then you will again surreptitiously build walls around yourself. To see the truth in the false is the beginning of wisdom; to see the false as the false is the highest comprehension. To see that what you have been doing all these years can only lead to further strife and sorrow – actually to experience the truth of it, which is not mere verbal acceptance – will put an end to that activity. You cannot voluntarily make yourself open; the action of will cannot make you vulnerable. The very desire to be vulnerable creates resistance. Only by understanding the false as the false is there freedom from it. Be passively watchful of your habitual responses; simply be aware of them without resistance; passively watch them as you would watch a child, without the pleasure or distaste of identification. passive watchfulness itself is freedom from defence, from closing the door. To be vulnerable is to live, and to withdraw is to die.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti, “Commentaries On Living, Series 2

As a spiritual being that is looking within, I have spent many years silencing my mind, and these old school, preconceived ideas on who I was supposed to be as a man. As I have shed these layers of self I have also shed these layers I built to shield myself from connection and love. You see, when we build these layers and masks that we wear we may shield others from our fear and weakness, yet we also keep people out and away from our true inner being. We create a sphere of isolation around us no matter how many relationships we have. Deep down we know this, we know we are not authentic or real. We understand that we are acting in our own play, pretending to be something for someone. We hold back and reserve our heart. We keep our stiff upper lips, and we keep our fear and worries to ourselves and we close our hearts. One cannot fully love unless their heart is fully open. Quid pro quo. This is life, what we want we must first become. If we want unconditional love, we must be unconditional love. Unconditional love is love without the boundaries, with no masks. It is a fully exposed heart. Yet our mind wants to shield us. The questions pound in our mind, what if they do not accept me and my weaknesses? What if I love and they do not love back? What if…? Our mind fights these questions and holds us in check. Our mind keeps us safe by keeping us confined. It takes courage to put your heart fully out there. This is the paradox as vulnerability is not weakness it is strength. To live a life exposed and out there authentically is the hardest path. It is a path that anyone can judge, yet it is also a path that has no limits. It is a path that is entirely free. No more lies, no more masks, just an exposed, vulnerable heart.
In this vulnerability we find empathy, and compassion. We find love at its root, its deepest level. In this we find authenticity and the depth of our path in this life. The courage to take this difficult path is rewarded in the relationships and authentic experiences we have in opening our heart.” –Thomas D. Craig

“Ooof. What Thomas talks about in this piece resonates with me very deeply. Living a life of “double consciousness.” Decades of layers and masks crafted. Keeping people out and away from my true inner being. Creating a sphere of isolation no matter how many relationships I had. Pretending to be something other than my authentic self for others. Fear filled and closed-hearted, keeping my fears and worries to myself, justifying it by saying “I don’t like to burden people with my shit.” “Safe” in self/societally imposed emotional solitary confinement.  These typical and undiscussed ways of being as a black man born into the violence & oppression of systems of patriarchy & white supremacy, for many of us, seem like a necessity for survival. Having to be hyperconsciously self-policing about how you present to the world, because in some cases, being yourself can be hazardous to your health. Grateful to have found to courage to put my heart fully out there. I would encourage you to check out the brilliant documentary “The Mask You Live In” to get a glimpse of what this way of being is like. –Jevon

 

Zen Warrior

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” ~ Rumi

rumi lightIt has taken me a lifetime to understand that vulnerability is strength, that an open heart takes courage. As a man, this principle goes against everything in how I was raised. I grew up in a small, rural, mill town, a place that if I could describe in short I would say it is old school. Old school in that boys played football, didn’t show their emotion or feelings and kept their pain in check. The be strong and act like a man mentality. This fear induced mentality has limited our growth and spiritual evolution. Yet, you still hear the remnants of this message today. Words that oppress and control women, or fight against feminism and equal wages. Words that divide and create classes, or control. This level of thinking is like the 12 year old bully with…

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The Power Of Real Love

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2017 at 8:07 pm
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Sharon Salzberg (left) and bell hooks (right)

 

Oldspeak: Ms. hooks said it best in her book “All About Love” :

Love as a process that has been refined, alchemically altered as it moves from state to state, is that “perfect love” that can cast out fear. As we love, fear necessarily leaves. Contrary to the notion that one must work to attain perfection, this outcome does not have to be struggled for – it just happens. It is the gift perfect love offers. To receive the gift, we must first understand that “there is no fear in love.” But we do fear, and fear keeps us from trusting in love.

Cultures of domination rely on the cultivation of fear as a way to ensure obedience.  In our society, we make much of love and say little about fear.  Yet we are all terribly afraid most of the time. As a culture we are obsessed with the notion of safety. Yet we do not question why we live in states of extreme anxiety and dread.  Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination. It promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known.  When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then difference, of any kind will appear as a threat. When we choose to love, we choose to move against fear – against alienation and separation.  The choice to love is a choice to connect – to find ourselves in the other.” –bell hooks

“Jesus. When I think back to all the “love” I’ve professed and was professed to me in my life, I have a hard time thinking of an instance where conditions & fear weren’t also present. Fear of feeling. Fear of speaking. Fear of separation. Fear of being queer. Fear of loss of love. Fear of truth. Fear of trust. Fear of judgment. Fear of being my authentic self. Innumerable permutations of fear disguised as Love.  “love” professed in states of extreme anxiety and dread that went unquestioned. “love” employed in service of manipulation and control and domination. Always struggling to attain that which just fucking happens. The amount of heartache, frustration, anger and stress endured in the name of “love” Whew. That’s a lotta life energy expended to come to the point to be fortunate enough to experience fearless, unconditional, “perfect Love”. So grateful for the experience. So thankful for the gift. Real Love is something we all could use more practice with in these times of universal deceit and hatred.  Only the power of Real Love can vanquish fear.  These beloved wise ones have some excellent insight into how we can go about it.” –Jevon

 

By Bell Hooks, Sharon Salzberg & Melvin McLeod @ Lions Roar:

How do we bring more love into our lives? Sharon Salzberg and Bell Hooks sat down with Lion’s Roar’s Melvin McLeod for a special discussion on love in celebration of Salzberg’s new book, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection. Photos by Christine Alicino.

If love is what we need more of—and we do—then Sharon Salzberg and bell hooks are two of the most important voices of our time. As a leading teacher of loving-kindness meditation, Sharon Salzberg answers the all-important question: how, precisely, do we bring more love into our lives? As one of America’s leading political and cultural critics, bell hooks advocates for the power of love to transform not only our lives, but our society, overturning the culture of domination. I was honored to join these two great women and champions of love to celebrate the publication of Salzberg’s new book, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection, in a discussion at the Jewish Community Centre in New York co-sponsored by Lion’s Roar, the Garrison Institute, and the JCC. —Melvin McLeod

Melvin McLeod: We all want to be loved. We all want to love. But many of us are baffled about how to actually bring more love into our lives. How can we start?

bell hooks: Something I deeply appreciate about Sharon’s teaching—particularly in her new book, which is a kind of love workbook—is that she explores what we need to do to carry on the work of love. It fascinates me that while we are so obsessed with romance, many of us are turned off by the practice of love.

When you tell someone that there’s really a practice—a way that many of us, especially those from dysfunctional backgrounds, can learn what it is to love—they are hesitant to fully accept that. Sharon, when you express your conviction in our innate capacity to love, I’m not sure many people really believe in that.

Sharon Salzberg: Well, why would we, really? [laughter]

There’s a line from an old Steve Carell movie, Dan in Real Life: “Love is not a feeling. It’s an ability.” I wanted to use that line in my book Real Love, but my editor pushed back, saying I couldn’t really say that because people think of love as a feeling. So I sort of fudged it and wrote, “While we might think of love as a feeling, we can also think of it as an ability.” That turned out to be the most important line in the book. It describes the essence of a transformative experience I had a long time ago.

Love is inside me. Other people might awaken it or threaten it, but as a capacity, it’s mine.

In 1985, I was in Burma practicing intensive loving-kindness meditation. I had been there three months when I had a realization. I saw that up until then, I had considered love something that was in someone else’s hands. They were either going to deliver it to me or take it away. It was as if the UPS person arrived with a package of love, but if they got to my doorstep and decided they had the wrong address, I would have no love in my life.

In that retreat, I realized that was not true. Love is inside me. Other people might awaken it or threaten it, but as a capacity, it’s mine. That was incredibly liberating and also a little daunting. Because—and here’s the big question—if it’s an ability, does that mean it’s my responsibility to try to cultivate it, even in difficult circumstances?

bell hooks: Anytime we do the work of love, we are doing the work of ending domination. In a culture of domination, it’s extremely hard to cultivate love or to be love. At this moment in our nation, there’s so much disrespect afloat. Respect comes from a word meaning to look at. Right now, we are not looking at one another with loving-kindness, with compassion.

As Sharon teaches, you have to practice love not just for the people you like, those who are near you. You have to practice it for everyone. In Appalachia, where I live, I see an upsurge of white supremacy. Prior to this, I felt I was taking to heart the Buddhist emphasis on practicing love. I felt I could walk around Appalachia and beam love to white people. Maybe they wouldn’t respond or they would turn away, but I did not feel fear.

These days, I feel fear and uncertainty in my relationship to strangers. So I struggle every day now with how to love the stranger. How do I love people who are beaming a lot of hate in my direction? That’s a really crucial national question right now. How can we return ourselves to a place of loving-kindness?

Sharon Salzberg: Normally, we don’t want to love someone we’re in an adverse relationship with. We may feel it means giving in, surrendering, or giving up our values. But real love means loving them too.

An indelible image that has stuck in my mind is of the freedom riders registering people to vote in the South in the 1960s. One civil rights activist who had been badly beaten was being interviewed in the hospital, and he was radiant. Asked why, he said, “We practice nonviolence.”

Where did that come from? I’d have a hard time generating that kind of radiance for a bad cab driver. That shows us what’s possible when we don’t see love as being weak or giving in, but as courageous. If we see love as touching something much greater than our own situation, then it becomes a wellspring of strength.

Over the years that I’ve taught loving-kindness, I’ve encountered many people who are skeptical about the whole thing. “If I were to develop a more loving heart,” they think, “I’d have to give more money, I wouldn’t take a stand, I wouldn’t protect myself, I’d just sort of smile.”

If we think that’s what love means, what a degraded notion of love we’ve come to! There’s something empowering in recapturing the word “love” as something strong and unafraid.

bell hooks: That’s part of the power of Martin Luther King Jr. that we’ve kind of lost. He talked about love as a transformational source. It’s come down to us as a sort of a watered-down version of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” not as an empowering force that changes everything. I love Dr. King’s book Strength to Love, in which he talks about the courage it takes, in the midst of domination, to decide to love.

Breaking down that us-and-them binary is part of the work of love.

That’s a commitment many of us would rather not deal with. How do we make that commitment? How do we start to love? We’re in such a climate of hate right now. We’re seeing diminishing acts of kindness and love because fear of the stranger has been so deeply cultivated in us. Breaking down that us-and-them binary is part of the work of love. We need to challenge all the binaries we face and try to see where to find a relationship with the “other”—the one we fear—so that we can enact compassion.

Melvin McLeod: Love is a word with so many different meanings and interpretations. How do you define it?

bell hooks: Love is mostly about the action, not the definition. Drawing on Erich Fromm, I see love as a combination of six ingredients: care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust.  They form a basis for action. It’s not about what you’re feeling or how you’re defining love. The real question is: what is the action you’re taking?

Melvin McLeod: In Real Love, Sharon, you remind us how self-doubt and inner criticism can hold us back from loving. As we make the effort to cultivate more love, is it also helpful for us to recognize and celebrate how much we love and care already? Rather than continually questioning our capacity to love, are we challenged to see how our inherent capacity to love is constantly in action already?

bell hooks: Is it constantly in action, or is it something we have to activate? Our innate capacity to love is like a seed in the soil. What do we need to do to activate that seed, to make it capable of blossoming? It’s not enough just to know that the seed is in the soil.

Sharon Salzberg: Yes. Without our effort, it will not grow and spread. But I agree that we have unguarded moments of profound connection and they’re not strategic. They don’t even have to be with a human being or fall within the standard picture of a relationship. We can love life or nature. We can be struck with gratitude and awe, have great moments of connection, without another person involved.

It’s true we can be harsh judges of others and of ourselves. We always need to look at both the stories others tell about us and the stories we tell ourselves. Part of what makes us feel incomplete is not noticing that we are loving people, that we have great capacity to love. Love is not a scarce resource.

bell hooks: This takes me to the one place in Sharon’s book that raised a question for me: where you say you don’t have to be completely self-loving to love others. I have my doubts.

I make a distinction between care and love. I received care in my dysfunctional family and I’m here today because of it. Even if you receive care Monday through Friday and abuse on Saturday, it doesn’t negate the fact that you experienced care. But it’s not love. I believe we can wholeheartedly care for others without loving ourselves. But I don’t know that we can love them.

Sharon Salzberg: That’s a good point. As you’ve been speaking, I’ve been thinking that the missing ingredient in the six elements of love you listed is love for oneself. If you give love to others without loving yourself, you’ll be out of balance. You won’t find wholeness.

On the other hand, I don’t think loving yourself one hundred percent should become the project before you ever work on loving somebody else. People say that to me all the time: I decided to spend a few years only offering loving-kindness to myself. I understand and respect the impulse, but the question is, how do you know when you’re done? What’s the measure you’re looking for?

bell hooks: It’s not necessary to get to the point of being able to say I completely love myself. But I do think we must come to that place of wholeness where we are at peace, especially those of us who have unresolved trauma. When you have wholeness and peace, it makes you want to love more. As you say, Sharon, people start off thinking they could never love that much—it’s too daunting. Or they don’t want to, because it would make them too vulnerable. But the more you practice love, the easier it is. It becomes an act of grace.

Question from the audience: How do you find the strength to love the other? How do you stop seeing someone as the “other” when they are obviously othering you?

bell hooks: The practice of compassion is a profound practice of finding space. Can I find a space I can enter with this person who clearly others me, who wants to deny me my humanity? That’s one of the key roles of meditation—finding a space where I have the strength to not be shriveled up by an act of aggression I encounter.

As Black people and Brown people, we encounter so much everyday aggression. What may seem like a trivial incident can do real damage, and we end up carrying it around. For me, the alchemical process of meditating, of reflection, allows me not to carry things with me that can paralyze and wound me. Self-care strengthens our capacity to enter into this culture of domination and othering without being constantly wounded.

Sharon Salzberg: You’ve already done the hardest part, because you want to reach out to the other. You don’t see that as weak or being in collusion with the other’s destructive view.

That’s strength already. That’s your innate dignity coming through. It enables you to look at how that person is “shriveled up,” in bell’s words. You can see the self-imposed prisons they live in, how the choices they’ve made have cut them off. Compassion can flow from that.

Question from the audience: Love was a radical notion to my mother. I realized early that she didn’t know how to love herself, and that meant it was hard for her to love me. I wasn’t shown what it means to love; I was shown what it means not to love. How can I learn through meditation and other practices to connect to what it means to love from a positive perspective?

Sharon Salzberg: There can be something beneficial that can come out of learning through negation. When you get to see up close what doesn’t work, you can also see what’s left, and you may find something really potent.

As far as meditation practice goes, the proof is usually in doing it. If you’re the kind of person who’s really helped by structure, I would suggest trying a structure that seems reasonable to you. Don’t make it too ambitious, and then give it a shot. If you’re just starting out, try something like ten minutes a day.

One thing I’ve learned from my own meditation and from teaching others is that while you may think you’re getting nowhere with meditation—I still get so sleepy, I’m so bored, I’m not getting an ecstatic charge out of this—change does happen in your life. You might look in vain for the change during that ten-minute period each day, but not notice that when you made a big mistake, you didn’t beat yourself up quite so much. Or you met a stranger and really paid attention to them instead of being self-absorbed. Or a conflict arose and you didn’t treat it with the same desperation. That’s how meditation can help more love seep into your life.

Question from the audience: I run an organization where I work 24/7 to help others. But I also have a lot of anger. It feels like in the face of hatred, revenge is good. Others are now saying, as they did back in the sixties, “Get down, put your head down, and let people spit on you.” At the time I said, “I’m not going on those marches. Nobody is gonna spit on me without me spitting back,” and I still feel pretty much the same way now. So where does somebody like me go with that? How can I find a way to be authentic within all this?

bell hooks: We like to think that revenge is satisfying, but there are so many stories in which people discover that revenge isn’t satisfying. It didn’t take away the weight they were carrying with their rage. That’s why we offer love, because it can deal with that rage and offer us ways to move beyond vengeful feelings.

As Black people in the diaspora, we use anger as a way of cutting through invisibility. If we become enraged, if we strike out, we feel like we are seen, that we are exercising a form of power. It’s possible, though, to look to other forms of power we can lay claim to, that we can use.

On the other hand, trying to contain rage, tamping it down, doesn’t work either. We get sick because we can’t engage in the healing self-care that has to happen for us to blossom.

Sharon Salzberg: If somebody spit at me, I hope I would say or do something that says, “You have no right to treat me that way. I deserve better.” I don’t see “I deserve better” as vengeful.

Audience member: That’s why I’m talking about authenticity. I want to come from a place where I really don’t want to spit back. I have learned that I have enough love for a person who spits on me that I will not spit back, or hit back, or bite back. I really, really feel that that’s not the right thing to do. If I learn that, that’s authenticity.

 

 

 

On The Perils Of Certainty And The Wisdom Of Doubt

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2017 at 7:22 pm

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Oldspeak: ” Hello. My name is Jevon and I’m a certainty addict. As you may surmise from a cursory perusal of the last 7 years of content on this blog, I’ve been quite thoroughly and completely ensconced in my confirmation bias reinforced filter bubble of certainty addiction on a variety of topics. Most singularly lately, my certainty that unmitigated ecological calamity is all that awaits life on earth in the near future. Certainty DOES make you feel good doesn’t it…. It felt really good to  feel concerned about things I didn’t feel most others knew or cared to know about.  To feel specially informed. To ascribe a level of inviolability to my belief structures to the point that any information or argument which challenged or contradicted them were seen as the musings of poor ignorant uninformed souls. Ego fueled arrogance, self-righteousness and smarter than thouness was abundant.  A Perfect antidote to those ever recurrent pesky feelings of insecurity, depression, anxiety, alienation, fear, powerlessness & learned helplessness. This pathological desire for certainty and security in a world where there is none is quite a tough habit to break. Especially when considering the omnipresent,  powerful and convincing systems of cultural and commercial conditioning we’re born into which lead us to believe certainty and security exist in this transitory world of constantly changing flux… Fiona’s thoughts for me bring to mind the words of Alan Watts in his classic text “The Wisdom Of Insecurity” when he says:

There is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentaryness and fluidity. But the contradiction lies a little deeper than the conflict between the desire for security and the fact of change.  If I want to be secure, that is protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life.  Yet it is this very sense of separateness which makes me feel insecure. To be secure means to isolate and fortify the “I”, but it is just the feeling of being an isolated “I” which makes me feel lonely and afraid. In other words, the more security I can get, the more I shall want… The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing.

We look for this security by by fortifying and enclosing ourselves in innumerable ways. We want the protection of being “exclusive” and “special” , seeking to belong to the safest church, the best nation, the highest class, the right set, and the nice people.  These defenses lead to divisions between us, and so to more insecurity demanding more defenses. Of course it is all done in the sincere belief that we are trying to do the right things and live in the best way, but this too is a contradiction.

What we have to discover is that there is no safety and security, that seeking them is painful, and that when we imagine we have found them, we don’t like it. ”

Consider kicking your habit of certainty addiction. Take some time out to honesly & objectively inquire about your most inveterate beliefs. To critically analyze the externally prescribed life script you’ve memorized and are artfully acting out. Maybe improv life once in a while.  Have the courage to lower the considerable defenses you’ve erected around your core belief structures and consider adopting other ways of being. Connect with feelings that come up when you peel back the thin veneer of certainty. Smile, lovingingly accept them & let them pass away. Be with the idea that you may not be the “I” that you’re so securely certain about. Take a walk outside of your past and future made prison of certainty and see what you find.  Beware of certainty. Become more familiar and comfortable with the wonder, mystery and awe of the ever changing, ever present and uncertain NOW. -Jevon

 

Written By Fiona Robertson @ Beyond Our Beliefs:

Lately, I’ve been reading about certainty addiction (or bias). Our brains are apparently wired to perceive uncertainty as a potential threat to our survival, so we go looking for certainty wherever we can find it. We prefer certainties – however painful or uncomfortable – to the unknown and uncertain. We will ignore facts, reasoning and arguments – however compelling – that seem to threaten our sense of certainty. We see certainty addiction playing out in many areas of life, including politics and religion. It is also evident within spirituality.

Certainty feels good. In fact, certainty evokes the same kind of feel-good feeling as sex, gambling and other addictions. It also tends to reduce anxiety; the more certain we are, the more our sense of threat diminishes. No wonder we are attracted to certainty. A lack of physical certainty– food, shelter, warmth – can indeed be a threat to our survival. However, we often act as if our belief structures are equally necessary to our survival. An attack on our beliefs – even hearing an opposing viewpoint – can feel viscerally and powerfully threatening. We invest our ideas and beliefs with certainty, and proceed to defend them come what may.

When we go into defensive mode, we act as if we are defending the beliefs themselves, as if it is the content of the belief or viewpoint that is so important to us. In reality, however strongly we think we feel about a topic, we are also driven by our addiction to certainty. The more certain we are, the stronger and more determined our defensiveness will be. We will do whatever we can to hold onto our certainty, desperately trying to not feel all that comes with uncertainty.

Our addiction to certainty, while it gives us a sense of self and a feeling of security, also confines us. Having a sense of the known – even if the known is unpleasant or painful – is often less frightening than entertaining the unknown, yet it keeps us bound and unable to see wider potential or possibility. One of the many things I love about inquiry is the ability it gives us to question everything, to cast the light of doubt on anything we take to be certain truth. When we inquire, we come face to face with our certainties. I most definitely am unlovable. Yes, I’m better than him. Yes, my opinions are right. We discover just how tightly we are holding on to all our beliefs and opinions about ourselves and the world because we can’t conceive of what or who we might be without them.

Asking the inquiry questions opens up the possibility that things – including ourselves – may not be as we’ve believed them to be. Whatever our answers, the questioning itself can pierce the armour of certainty, or at least open up a slight chink. Sometimes, entertaining the possibility that we may not be X or Y is feels challenging, subversive or scary. At other times, it is liberating or exciting. It is also humbling to loosen the reins of certainty and allow other possibilities and perspectives to come into view. Either way, questioning our certainties connects us with the emotional pain that inevitably resides beneath. Once certainty is no longer obscuring it, the pain can finally emerge. As we continue to feel what has been previously unfelt, we develop the capacity to simultaneously hold certainty and uncertainty, surety and doubt. We ascribe less to an either/or model of the world and see the potential for both/and. We find a place of much deeper wisdom beneath the brittle veneer of certainty, a wisdom that only emerges when we are willing to doubt.

Inquiry does not leave us without opinions or viewpoints. It does not render us incapable of discussing issues or taking a stand on what we feel is important. It does, however, release us from the burden of having to defend our viewpoints in service to our own sense of certainty. We no longer need to be certain, because we are less addicted to certainty and the promise of security it seems to offer. As our need for certainty recedes, our relationships inevitably change. We become less defensive, less attached to our particular certainties.

Whenever we meet certainty – particularly absolute certainty – we see certainty addiction at work. Inquiring into our own certainties injects a healthy dose of doubt into our constructs and concepts. What if? What if this isn’t the case? Is this what I think it is? Am I what I tell myself I am? Again, we don’t need to come to a conclusion. There is not necessarily a definitive answer to these questions. It is the act of asking them in the first place that is most important. Can we stand not knowing? Can we rest in a place of doubt, resisting the temptation to land in a place of certainty?

In our increasingly polarised world, many people seem deeply entrenched in their certainties and unwilling or unable to question them. It seems incumbent on those of us who are willing to do the deep work of questioning to bring the wisdom of doubt to bear on all our beliefs and certainties. Perhaps together we can open up possibilities previously hidden by our collective addiction to certainty. Humbling and painful though it can be to question our sacred cows, how much better it is than to be trapped in our addiction to certainty.

Cool Boredom

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2017 at 12:55 pm
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Photograph courtesy Marta Soul/Gallerystock

Oldspeak: You hear it all the time. People forlornly declaring ” I’m bored”. But what if it wasn’t one of the worst things to be? What if we made boredom cool?

Cool boredom is quite spacious, and it creates further softness and sympathy toward ourselves. In that space, we are no longer afraid of allowing ourselves to experience a gap. In other words, we realize that existence does not depend on constantly cranking up our egomaniacal machine. There is another way of existing.” –Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Imagine that. Fearlessly experiencing a gap. In this culture of 24 hr on-demand, non-stop, always on, competitively/necessitatively busy, dead time (:imposing the need to produce, consume, calculate) dominated existence, disconnecting from that egomaniacal machine (side eying FaceTwiGram) and just BEING. Being without goal or expectation, in the gap in activity oriented experience is a revolutionary act. Recognizing the value of boredom, of stillness, of silence. Not constantly searching for things to do to replace boredom.  With understanding that Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It’s the last privilege of a free mind. That in fact “Properly understood, boredom helps us understand time, and ourselves. Unlike fun or work, boredom is not about anything; it is our encounter with pure time as form and content. With ads and screens and handheld devices ubiquitous, we don’t get to have that experience that much anymore. We should teach the….people to feel comfortable with time.”  Take a little time each day to get to know you. To develop your capacity for compassion, unconditional loving kindness, open-heartedness and sympathy for yourself. In that way, you’ll find you’ll start directing those wonderful ways of being toward the beings & world around you. There is indeed another way of existing. ” -OSJ

Written By Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche @ Tricycle:

In everyday life, we habitually try to conceal the gaps in our experience of mind and body. These gaps are a bit like an awkward silence around the table at a dinner party. A good host is supposed to keep the conversation going with his or her guests to put them at ease. You might talk about the weather, the latest books you’ve read, or what you are serving for dinner. We treat ourselves similarly. We occupy ourselves with subconscious chatter because we are uncomfortable with any gaps in our conversation with ourselves.

The purpose of the practice of meditation is to experience the gaps. We do nothing, essentially, and see what that brings—either discomfort or relief, whatever the case may be. The starting point for the practice of meditation is the mindfulness discipline of developing peace. The peace we experience in meditation is simply this state of doing nothing, which is experiencing the absence of speed.

Often, in considering the practice of meditation, the question arises as to what you are meditating on. In this approach, meditation has no object. You do work with your body, your thoughts, and your breath, but that is different from concentrating wholeheartedly on one thing. Here, you are not meditating upon anything; you are simply being present in a simple way.

The practice works with what is immediately available to you. You have your experience of being alive; you have a mind and you have a body. So you work with those things. You also work with whatever is going through your mind, whatever the content is, whatever the current issues are, whether painful or pleasurable. Whatever you are experiencing, that’s where you begin. You also use your breath, which is part of the body and is also affected by mind. Breathing expresses the fact that you are alive. If you ‘re alive, you breathe. The technique is basic and direct: you pay heed to breath. You don’t try to use the mindfulness of breathing to entertain yourself, but you use the mindfulness of breathing to simplify matters.

You develop mindfulness of the rising and falling of the breath. You go along with the process of breathing. In particular, you go along with each exhalation. As the breath goes out, you go out with it. And when the outbreath dissolves, you feel that you are also dissolving. The in-breath is a gap, a space, and then you breathe out again. So there is a constant sense of going out and slowing down.

At the beginning, the technique may be somewhat fascinating, but it quickly becomes boring. You get tired of sitting and breathing, doing nothing again and again and again—and again. You may feel like an awkward fool. It is so uninteresting. You might resent having gotten yourself into this situation. You might also resent the people who encouraged you to do this. You may feel completely foolish, as if the cosmos were mocking you.

Then, as you relax a little bit, you start to call up past experiences, memories of your life as well as your emotions, your aggression and passion. Now you have a private cinema show, and you can review your autobiography while you sit. Then, after a while, you might come back to your breath, thinking that you should try to be a good child and apply the technique. In meditation we have the opportunity to meet ourselves, to see ourselves clearly for the first time. We have never met ourselves properly or spent this kind of time with ourselves before. Of course, we take time for ourselves; we go off to the country or the ocean for a vacation. But we always find things to do on vacation. We make little handicrafts or we read something. We cook, we talk, we take a walk, or we swim. We never just sit with ourselves. It’s a difficult thing to do.

The practice of meditation is not merely hanging out with ourselves, however. We are accomplishing something by being there properly, within the framework of the technique. The technique is simple enough that it doesn’t entertain us. In fact, the technique may begin to fall away at some point. As we become more comfortable with ourselves and develop more understanding of ourselves, our application of the technique becomes less heavy-handed. The technique almost seems unnecessary. In the beginning we need the technique, like using a crutch to help us walk when we’re injured. Then, once we can walk without it, we don’t need the crutch. In meditation it is similar. In the beginning we are very focused on the technique, but eventually we may find that we are just there, simply there.

At that point, we may think that the efficient system we’ve organized around our practice is breaking down. It can be disconcerting, but it’s also refreshing. We sense that there is more to us than our habitual patterns. We have more in us than our bundles of thoughts, emotions, and upheavals. There’s something behind this whole facade. We discover the reservoir of softness within ourselves.

At that point, we begin to truly befriend ourselves, which allows us to see ourselves much more honestly. We can see both aspects, not just the bright side of the picture, how fantastic and good we are, but also how terrible we are. Good and bad somehow don’t make much difference at this point. It all has one flavor. We see it all.

As your sympathy toward yourself expands, you begin to appreciate and enjoy simply being with yourself, being alone. Or at least you are not as irritated with yourself as you used to be! As you become ever more familiar with yourself, you find that you can actually put up with yourself without complaint­—which you have never done before. Your thought patterns, subconscious gossip, and all of your mind’s chatter become much less interesting. In fact, you begin to find them all very boring. However, this is slightly different than our normal experience of boredom, because behind the boredom, or even within it, you feel something refreshing: cool boredom. You’re bored to death, bored to tears, but it is no longer claustrophobic. The boredom is cooling, refreshing, like the water from a cold mountain stream.

Hot boredom is like being locked in a padded cell. You are bored, miserable, and irritated. You will probably experience lots of that in your meditation practice. Beyond that, however, with cool boredom, you don’t feel imprisoned. Cool boredom is quite spacious, and it creates further softness and sympathy toward ourselves. In that space, we are no longer afraid of allowing ourselves to experience a gap. In other words, we realize that existence does not depend on constantly cranking up our egomaniacal machine. There is another way of existing.

From Mindfulness in Action by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. © 2015 Shambhala Publications, Inc.

The Mysteries Of Bearing And Understanding

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2017 at 1:32 pm

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Oldspeak: “To take bearing seriously entails a shift of perspective, a shift from seeing bearing in personal terms only to contemplating it for what it really is, namely, a permanent and irreducible feature of all existence. This shift is not easily made. It requires a deep empathy with the lot of any and all creatures that share life with oneself…. It is only within meditative thinking that faith, hope and love truly reveal themselves. They consistently elude rational explanation but we do not on that account regard them as illusory…. We can say that while we are bearing our trials in good faith, we are upon the same instant leaping into the only life worth living, the life of peace that passes understanding. This leap is intuitive. It has no causal antecedent nor can it be anticipated as something waited for. It can only be waited on; it will come or not come in its own good time. In the meantime bearing remains. It abides impervious to our manipulations. It does not change…. Since bearing does not change it is given to us in advance. We cannot choose it. Like language, bearing, given to us in advance, is fraught with mystery. We speak of understanding language but we do not understand its origin. We speak of understanding bearing as a personal response to adversity and we think we understand what it is but we do not understand that it remains abidingly the case with every existent from stone to star.”

“Ooof. Good stuff on the seeing the value, wisdom and all-pervading “isness” of bearing a.k.a. “suffering”. And how through letting go of conditioned ways of being, choiceless awareness, detachment to bearing we can glimpse our natural state;” “Our natural state reflects the point of which Ultimate Spirit meets whatever body it energizes and informs. This point of our original innocence has no lust to possess an end in view and no nostalgia for a beginning once enjoyed. Our natural state abides in the time between times which is the timely, the ever present and unprecedented now, obedient to the suasions of Heaven in which is perfect freedom—the freedom from having to choose…. bearing as suffering is a necessary but not sufficient condition for realizing life and that the way to life is a state that results from that condition.”  In this state one can find the truth of one’s nature and way of being. Unconditioned, undistracted, undifferentiated, undefined. Shift your perspective with inner work.” -OSJ

 

Written By Alan W. Anderson @ Inner Directions:

We have been taught since the beginning of western classical metaphysics that what is is to be understood in terms of itself or as a substance, a constant; its cause is a constant also, whether we term it “God” or “Being” (with a capital B). This reduction of things to their virtual atomic, constant identity was given enormous emphasis in the Middle Ages when the salvation of the individual human soul was the overriding obsession. In our own time this religious perspective has largely given way to an impersonal focus on what we call the phenomenon whether it be observed in language or experimental science. But this change in perspective has not altered our inveterate habit of seeing things as fixed ontological units, limited to and by their own essence.

We pay a severe price for this view of things. We lose the freedom of what Krishnamurti   calls “the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity.”3 We cannot realize and enjoy that freedom while we are busy worrying over how to protect and maintain our fixed identity from colliding with other fixed identities in a world of essential oppositions and estrangement. The psychological ramifications from this self-misunderstanding are not confined to western civilization. The Bhagavad Gita, perhaps the most influential Hindu Scripture, describes the Lord Krishna’s appeal to Prince Arjuna to drop this very same   self-misunderstanding.   That   fully   eighteen   chapters   are   required   to complete this Scripture indicates how grave and all encompassing this self-misunderstanding is.

The prince is willing to listen to the instruction that, if followed, will release him from self-bondage, but he cannot know beforehand all the spaces he must encounter. Each of these spaces if not met openheartedly will become roadblocks to his enlightenment. Each space, chapter by chapter, opens up a new abyss. The prince must walk up to each one without flinching and hold patiently until he grasps the attitude and movement that will carry him safely through one crisis to the next. Each new space affords the prince another context within which to face up to the awful question: what and who are you. Are you constantly, concretely your self-image, your idea of yourself?  How can that be since it is always changing?

Krishna brings Prince Arjuna around again and again to face the same question because of all questions it is the most difficult to stay with and to hold to courageously, patiently, soberly and quietly. Perhaps, impatiently, we will explode with: “Oh, for heaven’s sake, this is ridiculous. If I didn’t know who I was I’d be an amnesiac!” But this won’t do either, since no one is willing to be reduced to one’s name, form and activity. As with Arjuna, so with us. We either stay with the question until breakthrough or we bolt from it hoping that, in our rush to rejoin the crowd, the question will not follow us.

Existence, which has always the first move, lays this question upon us at a very early age. Not that the question is intellectually formulated at that age. Indeed, it might never be so formulated for the term of one’s natural life. However, the normal child between the ages of two and five feels itself subjectively as subject. This felt self-identity is often called “ego-consciousness,” a rather unhappy term since it appears to collapse subjectivity into the function of ego. This verbal collapse is indulged in a great number of writings on spirituality which advise that the destruction of the ego is the means to release from self-bondage. This is a misleading notion since it is not the fault of the ego that self-misunderstanding occurs. Without the function of ego, we should lose personal pronouns whose grammatical uses are spiritually neutral. Self-misunderstanding belongs to the self, not to the ego.

Let us return to our Chinese model in the I Ching. The six lined hexagram is composed of the two trigrams for Heaven and Earth. Human nature is displayed by the two middle lines, the topmost line of the lower trigram for Earth and the lowermost line of the upper trigram for Heaven. As we noted earlier on, these two lines, while representing human nature are not intrinsically our possession. On taking seriously this image, it invites us to step back from the classical western view of ourselves as individual selves, as substances, separate from the interplay of Heaven and Earth, which are respectively primal energy and its embodiment. On accepting the invitation to step back, what comes into view is human nature as pattern, an embodiment of primal energy. As such we are but players in the interplay of the primal powers of Heaven and Earth and subject to their suasion. They are the playwrights of our ways in the play of the one cosmic dance.

Here, there is no ontological estrangement between self and other. Instead of a cosmic arrangement of fixed substances here is a panorama of integral movement bound only by the Unconditioned. Each of us is a way of primal energy patterning itself as the cosmic drama unfolds. The career of this boundless movement is not imposed from without. Rather its activity is intrinsic to itself; it is satisfied by its own exercise. Lao Tzu describes the intrinsic, non-authoritarian hierarchy of this cosmic movement this way:

Man patterns himself on Earth,
Earth upon Heaven,
Heaven upon Tao (the Way of ways)
And Tao accords with itself.

Elsewhere he says: “Tao (the Way) does nothing, yet leaves nothing undone.”5 This marvelous vision of the Groundless Ground, this intuition of Tao, the Way of ways overcomes the dualism of the One and the many. It is the One as the many and draws us back to the originary and absolute present. Lao Tzu says that the movement of the Way, the Tao, is a turning back. It is a turning back from the multiplicity of beings to Being and from Being to Non-being from which Being comes. It is precisely this turning back that discloses the role of bearing at its depth.

Before opening out the character of bearing let us note how self- misunderstanding arises. It is much less complex than we might flatter ourselves is the case.  It must not be confused with clinical neurosis with its attendant visceral symptoms, anxieties and phobias. As Kierkegaard noted, “losing the self can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all.”6 On the other hand when self-misunderstanding collides with the self’s readiness to become healed from it and accepts the course of healing, symptoms very like those of neurosis often obtain. They are the result of withdrawal from habitual misperceptions of the way things really are. However, one does not become dysfunctional in the ordinary affairs of living during that withdrawal.

The beginning of self-misunderstanding occurs upon the instant reflection seizes upon a memory of the self’s behavior whether of action or reaction. Imagination then fixates that image. When the self identifies with that image or representation it has misunderstood itself. It has reduced itself to a belief in a disembodied consciousness which remains constant. The self invests this fiction with a name and properties. True, it is tinkered with and edited over the years under the duress of changes in body and opinion but the belief in its permanence is held indefinitely. It is now the self’s final arbiter and judge of any and everything.

What is it that draws us toward and into self-inquiry? It is the abiding pressure of bearing. Western culture, with its inveterate alienation from nature, tolerates thinking that bearing as suffering belongs primarily to our human species. It is argued   that   since   animals   do   not   have   verbal   language   with   which   to communicate thoughts and feelings that animals do not think and feel. The seventeenth-century philosopher Descartes believed animals to be nothing but automata, machines.

In a remarkable and scholarly book by J. M. Masson and S. McCarthy, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, the authors quote an unknown contemporary of Descartes:

The [Cartesian] scientists administered beatings to dogs with perfect indifference and made fun of those who pitied the creatures as if they felt pain. They said the animals were clocks; that the cries they emitted when struck were only the noise of a little spring that had been touched, but that the whole body was without feeling. They nailed the poor animals up on boards by their four paws to vivisect them to see the circulation of the blood which was a great subject of controversy.

Not all thinkers were persuaded by Descartes. Voltaire, Newton and Locke took the side of the animals. Lest we think that our alienation from nature affects only species other than our own we should remind ourselves of the atrocities we have wreaked upon our own kind since time out of mind, the Inquisition and the Holocaust are but two instances of our depravity. Human nature continues to display unimaginable extremes from sacrificial love to intense, heartless cruelty toward all forms of life. It is not difficult to agree with the prophet Jeremiah who cried out that the human heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things and who can know it? [Jer 17:9]

Our usual human response to this spectacle is to avert our gaze from it, as long as we can, since to dwell on it leads only to despair and perhaps even to clinical depression.  But this attitude does not take bearing seriously.  It seeks only to escape from it. To take bearing seriously entails a shift of perspective, a shift from seeing bearing in personal terms only to contemplating it for what it really is, namely, a permanent and irreducible feature of all existence. This shift is not easily made. It requires a deep empathy with the lot of any and all creatures that share life with oneself. Linda Hogan, the Native American poet, essayist and novelist has said, “A change is required of us, a healing of the betrayed trust between humans and earth. Caretaking is the utmost spiritual and physical responsibility of our time….”8 She offers a beautiful example of this reciprocity on nothing “how water and earth love each other the way they do, meeting at night, at the shore, being friends together, dissolving in each other, in the give and take that is where grace comes from.”

Let us note now how we as human first encounter bearing. Whether there was or was not a preexistence for us, it is certain that upon the moment of conception we are housed as the sheltered promise of our birth. Earth which is housed in space houses our mother who in the deepest recesses of her person houses the promise of our birth, our arrival into the world, itself a house, a dwelling awaiting us and given to us in advance. This is how Existence conditions us and mothers us into being. Our life career is an embodied one from the start. This principle of embodiment the language of myth calls Earth. The spirit that is embodied is called Heaven. The I Ching calls Heaven the Creative and Earth the Receptive. They are the Father and the Mother of all lives and as primal energies they specify our natures in advance. But the Classic teaches us also that unconditioned spirit is unfathomable, unbound by any determinants and utterly beyond explanation. This is Tao, the Way. As conditioned spirits we must revere it in silence yet it is our true origin and ultimate nature. The relation between it and our conditioned existence provides a way to contemplate and ponder the mystery of bearing.

As human we enter the world unable to stand. For many months we lie most of the time parallel to Earth. As adults we can hardly, if ever, recall how arduous it was for us to raise ourselves from our horizontal posture to the vertical one of standing upright and unaided. On standing upright, on our own, we make our first formal gesture of independence; but it is a conditioned independence. What conditions us lies much deeper than our need for continued parental care and social affirmation.

The depth of our conditionality discloses itself if we suspend our calculative point of view and adopt for the time being the mythical or intuitive perspective. This is the meditative one within which our potential sageliness can flower and poetry sings. For example, it is only within meditative thinking that faith, hope and love truly reveal themselves. They consistently elude rational explanation but we do not on that account regard them as illusory.

How does our human standing upright condition us in depth below the psychological and social spheres of our needs and desires? Mythically speaking, by standing upright, we mediate what is above us to what is below and what is below to what is above. We are the face of that midpoint between Heaven and Earth, the Creative and the Receptive, Spirit and Embodiment; but we do not stand as effortlessly as we recline. Standing tires us, so we sit or lie down where and when we can to compensate for that fatigue. In fact, at least one third of our lives is spent in reclining for the sake of restoring our energy through sleep and rest. It is in standing that we bear our humanness.

This point of view discloses that the moment of the infant child’s first standing unaided is, humanly, the first decisive moment of its life’s passage. In standing alone it declares its individuality and all the inwardness which that entails. Yet, ironically, this very statement of individuality provides our principal occasion for self-misunderstanding. This crucial point will be developed in the next and last section. In standing alone, Existence has called the child to the universal human vocation which the child must bear and carry through in its own way. Human nature’s vocation is to mediate, to bear spirit to body and body to spirit. The intersection of these powers tradition has called the soul which is an unstable equilibrium. It is an unstable equilibrium since every instant is fraught with the unexpected, the unprecedented, whether observed or not. The soul is the intermediary of endless beginnings and it is only through memory and imagination that it can fancy itself to be otherwise. Try as it might the soul cannot in fact, in actuality be elsewhere than upon the threshold of every present instant.

This link between spirit and body which, from the individual standpoint, tradition calls soul is from the cosmic standpoint the intersection between being and becoming, the axis of value and process. Yet, beyond these, there is a deeper intersection, one which today we hear almost nothing about.  It is the point between what Plato called the Good and the whole interplay of Being and Becoming. Here, the Good is beyond the correlation good/evil. Plato tells us in the dialogue, the Republic, that the Good is beyond being, surpassing it in dignity and power. Precisely as one is enabled to pass between being and becoming, one comes upon this deepest of all intersections, that between the Good and the whole manifest world of coming to be and passing away.

Bearing does not disclose itself in its radical character until the intersection between the Unconditioned and conditioned existence is intuited. Since the Good is beyond Being it is beyond conceptualization.  Plato’s calling it the Form of forms does not reduce it to a concept except negatively just as the name Non- being is a negative concept which is simply to say it is beyond what can be conceived. The Good, the Ultimate is not this and not that.

If we can for a moment disengage from our collapse into abstract, disembodied consciousness and ask seriously what is the condition for relating viscerally to Non-being, we should have to say it is bearing, which is to say, plainly, suffering. Precisely here some non-dualists will object by asserting that with self-awakening suffering disappears.  But this is a hasty notion.  Rather, it is suffering over suffering that disappears and not suffering itself. If suffering as such disappeared with enlightenment, how is it that some sages have died so painfully from cancer? To say that they did not suffer their pain is a trifling, semantic quibble. On the contrary, their bearing and their sacrifice provide us a profound lesson. Existence is not meant always to be docile to our arts and sciences, five-year plans and manipulative cleverness.

The intersection of Ultimate Spirit with the flux of existence occasions detachment in us. The occasion for detachment does not actualize it. It only invites our consent to it. Yet without detachment bearing, as suffering, puts us in bad faith with existence. Another mistaken notion is that adversity produces fine character. On the contrary, without detachment adversity alienates and embitters us. However, detachment rescues us from self-pity and returns us to origin, to our natural state in which we do not act for an object but from timeliness, the detached response to necessity.

In the detached response of timeliness we lose the illusion of agency and so act without contrivance.  Complete detachment within the intersection of Ultimate Spirit and the world turns over our view of things 180° and what appeared above is now below and what was below is now above. This is beautifully portrayed in the eleventh hexagram of the I Ching in which Heaven is placed beneath Earth rather than above her. The hexagram is called Peace. Peace is not the cessation of hostilities.  Peace is dwelling in our natural state, our original innocence. Masculine and feminine energies once estranged are now nearer than near.

Our natural state reflects the point of which Ultimate Spirit meets whatever body it energizes and informs. This point of our original innocence has no lust to possess an end in view and no nostalgia for a beginning once enjoyed. Our natural state abides in the time between times which is the timely, the ever present and unprecedented now, obedient to the suasions of Heaven in which is perfect freedom—the freedom from having to choose. Visionary matters are notoriously difficult to communicate and prose is not the happiest medium to convey them. So I shall try a poem and call it: Between.

Between
Who can wander for a lifetime

In the valley, on the hill,
And not see the face of heaven
On the swift and in the still

On the swift and shining waters
In the smooth wet-molded stone Wide,
wide heaven beds among them
Lies where all the leaves are blown

And the wafted leaf in autumn
Comes, like us, to find its ground
Falling where the hand of heaven
Cups the seeker and the found.

If one is not vigilant, the perspective of these lines can encourage a false comfort. It is infinitely more pleasant to imagine the ideal embrace of Heaven and Earth and how they cradle us than it is to remain alert to the inevitable contradictions and collisions of our embodied existence. Abstract contradiction we take easily in stride. It is when contradiction touches our being that we are devastated since it overturns all we have taken for granted. The real tests me through contradiction in being. Without existential contradiction we have no occasion for learning detachment and distance on our surround.10 Only in detachment is the spirit free to discern the false in the false and the true in the false. Spirit is released to its vocation when soul lets spirit be its eyes and ears. Unfortunately, the soul usually prefers to outward eyes and ears of the body and rarely discovers the inward eye and the inward ear. Unless the soul makes the transposition from the outer to the inner it remains turbulent indefinitely, unable to rise above the storms and stress of material flux.

In one of the uncanonical gospels, the Acts of Phillip, Jesus is recorded as saying, “Unless you change your ‘down’ to ‘up’ (and ‘up’ to ‘down’ and ‘right’ to ‘left’ and ‘left’ to ‘right’) you shall not enter my Kingdom (of heaven).” Clearly, this oracular admonition requires us to transpose our levels of being, the horizontal (right, left) and the vertical (up, down). Our transfiguration depends upon it. Naturally, if these relative qualities are exchanged on the same plane, they cannot effect an inner transformation. The depth and character of their transposition appears in St. Matthew’s gospel. This text is usually given a tiresomely moralistic interpretation. But Jesus was not a moralizer (had he been one he might never have been executed). In this text bearing becomes acutely aware of itself. The following is a standard translation of the text [Matt. 7:13-14].

Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The word ‘hard’ that describes the way or road that leads to life is not, in the Greek text, a simple adjective opposed to the word easy which describes the way leading to destruction. The Greek word translated ‘hard’ is tethlimménē which is a form of the verb, thlibō meaning to press together, to compress, to contract. What is hard about the way that leads to life is its pressure, its compression. The word tethlimménē beckons us to look at it still more deeply. This form of the verb ‘compress,’ means literally ‘in the state that results from the act of compressing.’ Now our text reads more amply and precisely. It tells us not that the way itself is hard but that the way is a result of something else that is hard, namely, a compressing which metaphorically means an oppression, distress, affliction.

Strictly speaking, the one thing said of the way is that it is a result and this result leads to life. Further, the only thing said of the act of compressing is that it has a result. Neither the act of compressing is the way nor is the way called an oppression, an affliction. This distinction is far reaching and a check against hasty conclusions about the spiritual life. Some see the spiritual life as an agony undergone for the sake of a later, a heavenly reward. Others see living spiritually as a blissful deliverance from bearing, from suffering. The text supports neither of these viewpoints. Rather, it implies that bearing as suffering is a necessary but not sufficient condition for realizing life and that the way to life is a state that results from that condition.

Etymologically, result derives from Latin salire, to leap. Result, then means to leap back; to reverberate, to echo. As a leap it is a transition from one level to another, as a reverberation, an echo. Just as an echo is not a repetition of the material conditions that produced it, so the way that leads to life operates in a higher sphere above our personal sufferings; yet, these sufferings abide as that out of which the way is realized. To put the matter simply we can say that while we are bearing our trials in good faith, we are upon the same instant leaping into the only life worth living, the life of peace that passes understanding. This leap is intuitive. It has no causal antecedent nor can it be anticipated as something waited for. It can only be waited on; it will come or not come in its own good time. In the meantime bearing remains. It abides impervious to our manipulations. It does not change.

Since bearing does not change it is given to us in advance. We cannot choose it. Like language, bearing, given to us in advance, is fraught with mystery. We speak of understanding language but we do not understand its origin. We speak of understanding bearing as a personal response to adversity and we think we understand what it is but we do not understand that it remains abidingly the case with every existent from stone to star.

Since these things are so, our understanding does not transcend its primitive meaning in English which is to stand under. Ultimately, what is it that we stand under? It is the obligation to be true to one’s nature, one’s own way of being who and what one is which existence has required from the moment of birth. This requires patience and an undistracted listening to the voice of primal intuition.

– – – – – – –

From an excerpt of the talk titled Inner Transformation and Bearing, presented by Dr. Allan W. Anderson, in November-December 1995 at the International Foundation for New Human Paradigms in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Allan W. Anderson, Ph.D. was born in Hastings, New Zealand but grew up in England. He moved to the United States in 1936 where he remained most of his life.

Dr. Anderson began teaching at San Diego State University 1962 and retired in 1985. He was a founder of the Department of Religious Studies, established in 1969. He taught courses on philosophy of religion, metaphysics, ethics, scripture, and psychology with a focus on Hindu and Chinese canons. Additionally, he received the 1970 California State Distinguished Teaching Award and the Alumni Association Outstanding Faculty Award for 1982 and 1983.

Perhaps his most well-known work is the eighteen one-hour dialogues between Dr. Anderson and J. Krishnamurti entitled A Wholly Different Way of Living. The talks were broadcast every Sunday on KPBS between January and April in 1975, and were later published as a book.

Allan Anderson was a good friend of Inner Directions and played a significant role in the production of the following two DVD titles: Abide as the Self: The Essential Teachings of Ramana Maharshi and Awaken to the Eternal: Nisargadatta Maharaj-A Journey of Self-Discovery.

 

“The Wondrous Path Of Difficulties”

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2017 at 8:33 pm

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Oldspeak: “YAZZZZZ…. this is where the practice meets the road. Seeing the difficult parts of the path as opportunities for practicing choiceless awareness, equanimity, compassion and seeing things as they are, not how our habitual and conditioned narratives say they should go. Not mindlessly reacting to sensations as they arise and pass away. Surely, easier said than done. But that’s where the practice is. The last point was for me the key point. “Not being reactive is not being passive. It’s not a kind of stupidity, holding back or being disinterested, removing oneself from the world. Real equanimity isn’t indifference. It’s the capacity to be present with your whole being and not add fuel to the fire.” Yes. See the value and wisdom in life’s vicissitudes. Smile and make friends with the discomfort, knowing all the while that as with all in this world, it passes away.” –OSJ

Written By Lion’s Roar Staff:

Call it luck, good luck. A sellout crowd of over 3,000 people arrives at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco to listen to a discussion with two of America’s most respected and beloved Buddhist teachers: Pema Chödrön and Jack Kornfield. Then, suddenly, the center’s computer system goes down, causing mass confusion at the ticket counters. But what might have seemed like a big problem on the surface, explain Chödrön and Kornfield, was in fact a great opportunity to practice the Buddhist teachings. Here is a portion of their conversation, moderated by KQED Public Radio host Michael Krasny.

Michael Krasny: We haven’t had an easy time getting this event off the ground. I suppose we could look at all this as a good opportunity to find transformation within.

Pema Chödrön: Yes, I think so. Difficulties are inevitable—and helpful. Once I was teaching a workshop at Omega Institute and everything went wrong. The organizers were tearing their hair out, and, after all was said and done, they couldn’t understand why it turned out to be such a harmonious weekend. Then, one of the main organizers looked at the title of one of my books, When Things Fall Apart, and she realized that the teaching related to our immediate experience. Doesn’t some problem like the one we’ve had tonight happen every day of your life in major and minor ways? Yet, for some reason, we keep thinking something has gone wrong.

The Buddhist teachings are fabulous at simply working with what’s happening as your path of awakening, rather than treating your life experiences as some kind of deviation from what is supposed to be happening. The more difficulties you have, in fact, the greater opportunity there is to let them transform you. The difficult things provoke all your irritations and bring your habitual patterns to the surface. And that becomes the moment of truth. You have the choice to launch into the lousy habitual patterns you already have, or to stay with the rawness and discomfort of the situation and let it transform you, on the spot.

So, whoever had anything to do with whatever went awry tonight, thank you for providing us with this great opportunity to practice before we even started the event itself.

Jack Kornfield: In the monastery where I trained, my teacher would gather us together and then he’d be waylaid for some reason or another. Without fail, disruptions would always occur that we would have to deal with in the interim. I learned later that he was deliberately setting this up. Then he would come in and peer around the room to see how we were doing in working with the disruptions.

Difficulties and frustrations, such as we experienced in getting started tonight, allow you to remember where you really are. You can find a kind of freedom from getting hung up on difficulties that can serve you well in your marriage, your family, and your community, where you will find lots of difficulties and frustrations. It’s the kind of freedom that can serve you better than almost anything else.

Pema Chödrön: We get misled by the ads in magazines where people are looking blissful in their matching outfits, which also match their meditation cushions. We can get to thinking that meditation and the spiritual path is about transcending the difficulties of your life and finding this just-swell place. But that doesn’t help you very much because that sets you up for being constantly disappointed with what happens every day at breakfast, lunch, and dinner—all day long.

Jack Kornfield: Yes, we have these great ideals about how we’re supposed to be. But when we are standing in a long line that isn’t moving and we find ourselves saying, “This place hosts events all the time, how come they can’t get it together?” we don’t have to pretend that our irritability is not there or compare it unfavorably with our ideal version of ourselves. We could simply take a breath and say, “This is how I am—this is anger, this is fear, this is great irritation.”

There’s another kind of gesture that you can also practice, which I think of as a kind of inward bow. You say, “Here’s anger, here’s irritation, here is being really pissed off, and not only that, I had a hard day and I came here and I thought they were going to help me and instead they make it worse!” [Laughter] We bow to that and acknowledge that.

In that regard, I would like to read to you my new favorite little piece: “If you can sit quietly after difficult news, if in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm, if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy, if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate and fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill, if you can always find contentment just where you are, you are probably a dog.” [Laughter]

There’s a certain sense of humor that is absolutely necessary for our human condition. When we have that sense of humor, things become workable. It’s the part that we put on top of our ordinary human experience—and we all put something on top of it when we started our spiritual search—that creates the problem. You then not only have your own suffering, you have all these ideals and images that you hold up for yourself. That puts a layer of spiritual suffering on top of the basic suffering.

Michael Krasny: Some of the most joyous people I’ve met have been Buddhist teachers. They laugh and giggle and are filled with a wondrous sort of humor. Yet, it seems that to understand what’s at the heart of the Buddhist teachings, you need to understand suffering. How do the suffering and the joy go together?

Pema Chödrön: You have to know suffering in order to have the joy, and that has to do with not resisting what’s happening to you. It’s true that if you could do all those things on the list that Jack read, you’d be a dog. On the other hand, the teachings point out that you haven’t simply been dealt a bad hand and that’s the end of it.

Instead of being resigned to your fate, you could get curious about what’s going on. You could take an interest in the irritation that’s rising up in you, and you could be curious about how other people are reacting. We tend to be so stupid about what actually makes things worse and what actually makes things better, because we don’t explore our experience carefully enough.

This evening, the computer goes down and suddenly the people behind the ticket windows are under a lot of pressure and freaking out. When everyone is getting mad, and then getting even madder as they all start talking to each other about it, we can look at this and ask, “How is this happening? This simply doesn’t add up to any kind of happiness for anyone. In fact, it adds up to everybody getting ulcers. Why are we doing this?”

One of the main things I work with personally is saying to myself essentially what Jack was saying: “This is how I am right now. I have a very short fuse and I’m losing it.” Then I ask myself, “Do I want to strengthen this habit so that a year from now my fuse is even shorter?” By sticking with and reinforcing our habit, we could get really professional at making our fuse shorter and shorter. Ten years from now we could have the world’s shortest fuse.

As I started to get older, I figured I ought to get smarter. I noticed that I had the habit of easily getting irritated and angry. I asked myself honestly, “Do I want that? Does it feel good?” And the smart answer was, “No, it doesn’t feel so great.” So I was left with a choice: Did I want to strengthen it or find a way to shake it up, weaken it, and infiltrate it in some kind of way?

Michael Krasny: Wisdom is supposed to come with age. Jack, you have talked about how people in other cultures have a veneration for wisdom, in contrast to the love of youth so prevalent in Western culture. Despite what we might think about the wisdom of age, many people’s fuse becomes shorter as they get older. It becomes more difficult for them to do what you’re talking about because of helplessness and atrophy.

Jack Kornfield: That’s one of the reasons it’s recommended to have some form of practice, and to take the opportunity to practice when it presents itself. This enables you to work with whatever circumstances arise. When people come on retreats, their knee is hurting or their whole body is hurting, so, why, they ask, can they not just get up and move and make it easier?

I’ll often say in response, “Well, you could get up and that would be fine, but at some point in your life there’s going to be a time when you are in great pain—or maybe you’ll be sitting at the bedside of someone you love who’s in a lot of pain—and if you haven’t learned to find some graciousness and capacity to be with what’s difficult, things are simply going to get worse and worse. One of the great blessings I see in people who have committed themselves to a Buddhist practice is that their capacity for both joy and for dealing with the sorrows and the pain of life grows. Practice opens the door for both.

Pema Chödrön: When I was in my late thirties, I was reading a book about Confucius and it said something like, “If you have been training up until the age of fifty to not resist what happens in your life, to open to it, then by the time you reach fifty, life will support you and make it easier. Conversely, if you’ve been training to shut down and try to get away from difficulties, then when you reach fifty, you’re going to become more and more cranky.” I remember vowing right then to choose the path of not resisting.

I am a little more optimistic now and think that a person can start at fifty, if that’s when they notice the need to change. As I get close to seventy, I can see the kind of challenges that physical deterioration can bring. I can see how in one’s eighties one could definitely become very irritable and impatient. So, I feel more committed than ever to avoid any kind of cozy nest. I’m anti-nest, because it feeds the propensity to resist being open.

If you live alone—and I am often alone in a retreat cabin or a similar setting—you have everything just the way you want it. So it’s really good to have people come in and mess things up. Otherwise, you think the meaning of life is just to get everything working the way you want it. But lo and behold, life becomes increasingly irritating as soon as you add even one more thing into your life.

Michael Krasny: Let’s take this conversation to a bigger sphere. If you had the most powerful man on the planet, George W. Bush, on a retreat with you, and he was willing not only to listen to what you had to say but also be mindful of what you had to say, what would you say to him about what compassion really means?

Jack Kornfield: First, I would look at him and say, “You know, it must be very difficult feeling that you have so much responsibility for the world.” I would want to start there. If I were to look at him and try to imagine myself in his place, I think I would see that he is just like all of us. He’s trying to do what he thinks is right and to lead his life the way he thinks he should. I would want to respect that and acknowledge how very hard it must be to have the responsibility he has. I would need to be able to really listen to him, and have a dialogue with him, before I could give any advice. Most people, including my teenage daughter, for example, are not so interested in my advice. But maybe they want to be listened to, so that’s where I would start. Maybe out of that conversation, some questions might arise about the effects of his actions on both himself and other people. That would be a good beginning.

Pema Chödrön: In previous years, if I were addressing a large audience like this and made a comment about President Bush, I would simply assume that everyone was of one view. Then I read a letter to the editor in Tricycle where somebody said that they were a practicing Buddhist and supported the government wholeheartedly. They found it painful that people who profess to be Buddhists and completely open-minded assumed that everyone in the audience had the same view. That stopped me in my tracks, and I began to realize that I don’t really want to foster aggression towards anybody by assuming what their correct political stance should be.

So, I agree with Jack’s way of approaching such an encounter. One of the tenets of the Buddhist teachings is that every living being has basic goodness, and we can communicate with each other from that place whether or not it would influence world politics or change someone’s religion. In fact, that can’t be the goal. The goal must be to talk to one another from the point of view of each other’s good heart. Up until this point I’ve never met anybody whose good heart you couldn’t contact. Trungpa Rinpoche once said that everybody knows how to love, even if it’s only tortillas. [Laughter]

Trungpa Rinpoche called that the “soft spot,” and he said that when you’re talking with someone, you want to find that spot. I often say that to people who are having really difficult relationships with their families. When people look for the soft spot, it can break the deadlock and they can begin to talk to each other again. Sure, they avoid the sticky subjects completely, but they find the place where they still love each other, which is always there waiting to be found.

I wouldn’t have any big expectations if I were talking with anyone such as the current president, who has completely different views from me, is archconservative and fundamentalist, and so forth. I wouldn’t hope for changing his religious views or political views, but I would have high hopes for our being able to talk from the heart.

Michael Krasny: Is being in the present with someone, then, the source of all compassion?

Pema Chödrön: What we need to do is drop the fixed ideas about the person we’re talking to. One way to do that is simply to start asking questions, and then we will see that a person’s soft spot is easy to find. I’m sure you find that happens in interviews all the time. You might have someone who’s a real hardass, but if you are able to get them on to certain topics, the mask comes off, and suddenly you’re talking human-to-human. That’s the now we’re talking about. It’s basically a now without preconceptions of who someone is, what they’re like, or what you have to prove to them. Now is dropping the agenda and just being completely curious about someone.

Michael Krasny: It’s what you call heart-to-heart.

Pema Chödrön: Yes.

Michael Krasny: Yet, we all seem to have a need to protect the heart, to keep it from being vulnerable.

Jack Kornfield: Yes, we do. Yet Rilke says, in a most beautiful line, that ultimately it is upon our vulnerability that we depend. That’s the way to the soft spot, to making a human connection. It is what we would want for the Israelis and the Palestinians, or the Northern Irish Catholics and the Protestants. There has to be a willingness to go to the place of vulnerability, and there are a couple of things we can say about how we avoid getting there and what we can do about that.

For one thing, we have difficulty making a human connection because we don’t trust our heart. We don’t trust that our heart has the capacity to open to the sorrows as well as the beauty of the world. We’ve been hurt many times, and along with that we’ve been taught that we can’t tolerate the world. One of the great Buddhist teachings—it’s a type of medicine, you might say—is to remind ourselves, and others, that we all have a great capacity of heart. We have within us buddhanature, the capacity to hold all the sorrows and joys of the world. An aspect of our great openness is our ability to tolerate suffering.

Everybody has their own burden. Everybody has their own measure of sorrow. Relatively speaking, some might carry an enormous burden, but everybody has a fair measure. It’s just part of the human condition. When you speak of the first noble truth, you acknowledge that this is how our human incarnation is. When you sit with someone, you can see that they too have their measure of sorrows, just as you do. If you can share with them how you’ve struggled with your own sorrows, and how you’ve worked with them, it softens the conversation and shares the vulnerability. It makes connection possible. It’s not a matter of being platitudinous or idealistic about this. The heart opens and closes, and there may be times, very sensibly, when you need to back off and protect yourself, as you say. You have to include yourself in compassion, not just everybody else. We get in trouble if the circle of compassion leaves out one person, “Moi!” as Miss Piggy would say. Once having included yourself in the compassion, the fundamental practice is to witness somebody else’s suffering.

Michael Krasny: Pema, you’ve recounted in your books some of the suffering you’ve experienced—a difficult marriage breakup, chronic fatigue syndrome, and so forth. Was compassion toward yourself a key part of transforming those experiences into something you could work with?

Pema Chödrön: Compassion toward yourself is something worth exploring more. In teaching Buddhism in the West, one of the first things that all of us as Western dharma teachers realized very early on was that most people we were teaching were really hard on themselves. Without self-compassion or some kind of loving-kindness toward oneself, nothing is ever going to happen on the spiritual path. It will never get off the ground. You can find that out very fast at the beginning. In my own case, for some reason I seemed to have had a lot of self-compassion from the beginning.

I learned in teaching people that almost anything you say to them can get twisted into something they use against themselves: “Oh, I can’t do that. I’m not good enough to do that.” If you suggest to someone that if they were patient and could do all those wonderful things that Jack read earlier in the “you’d be a dog” story, they will simply feel worse and worse about themselves and stress how inadequate they are. When they look into themselves, they find impatience, bad temper, and lots of right and wrong. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, the teacher I am studying with right now, says that in order to progress along the spiritual path, you need to be able to self-reflect, to really look at yourself honestly. He says that’s where most Western people get stopped right away. They sit down, they start to meditate, then they begin to self-reflect and to see clearly their habitual patterns, thoughts, and emotions. Then everything is immediately twisted into self-loathing, self-disapproval, or self-denigration. Consequently, he teaches a lot about guiltlessness. He discusses the poison of guilt and how it never lets you grow. When you are guilty, you can never go any further. Somehow, for self-reflection to work, there has to be a lot of emphasis on loving-kindness and friendliness toward yourself. But that doesn’t mean self-indulgence.

Michael Krasny: It doesn’t mean self-pity.

Pema Chödrön: Exactly. The best analogy I’ve heard is to treat yourself as though you’re raising a child. Imagine you are a child that you are raising and that you love very dearly. You know you need to give the child a lot of love and nurturing, but the child also needs some boundaries. You’re not going to let yourself eat all the candy and run out into traffic. In your heart, you know what is going to help you grow. In the beginning, of course, you don’t really know that very well, but you will learn, including what helps you to become more patient, loving, and less aggressive. You find that out through self-reflection, but if it twists, and you use what you see against yourself, you will lose track and get angry at yourself without noticing it anymore: “How could I even consider myself a meditator or a Buddhist? I’ve been meditating now for fifteen years and look at me! I still have this bad temper and all the other stuff!” You need to be kind as you look at yourself and not let it turn into loathing.

Michael Krasny: Wasn’t the Dalai Lama quite interested to learn how much of an obstacle this kind of self-loathing is for Western students?

Jack Kornfield: Yes, Pema and I were at a conference for Western Buddhist teachers with His Holiness in Dharamsala, and Sharon Salzberg started talking about this phenomenon of self-hatred. And he kept asking the translator to clarify. He simply didn’t understand what Sharon was talking about. Then, he asked not only whether we knew what she was talking about but also if we ourselves experienced this self-hatred. And almost all the Buddhist teachers there, representing an entire generation, said yes.

It is definitely something I’ve wrestled with in my spiritual life. It’s so painful, and yet it is a place where a tremendous turning can happen. One of the instructions I’ve loved offering to people over the past decade or two is to suggest that they do a year of loving-kindness for themselves as a practice. All of a sudden, people find out how difficult it is to do that. People feel unworthy and that they shouldn’t be directing such kindness toward themselves. They cannot wish themselves happiness. So, initially, it’s very painful. But after a while it does start to change people, and it also starts to change their relationship to their lovers, their family, and their community. We do have this capacity to care for ourselves and we are worthy of it, and when we discover that, it immediately translates into generosity toward others.

Pema Chödrön: I found it quite interesting that all these teachers said it was the most prevalent thing they encountered teaching in the West, which led the Dalai Lama to conclude that there really is a basic difference between Tibetans and Western people. And now he continually says that there can’t really be compassion for other people without self-compassion.

We might hear that and say, “Great, but I can’t get there from here. How do I do that?” We need teachings on how to develop maitri, loving-kindness for oneself, which is what can bring out our strength and confidence in our wisdom. We need to let go of our story lines. The meditation practices that teach us to notice thoughts, touch them, and let them go, allow us to let go of the story lines. Then we can get in touch with the underlying raw feeling of guilt itself. That’s the nowness we were talking about earlier—being completely present with the discomfort that comes with the guilt and not simply feeding it with thoughts.

Michael Krasny: Isn’t is possible, though, that because you could feel guilty, you might act merciful and kind as a result? For example, someone who is quite wealthy and privileged might give alms to the poor because of guilt or regret.

Jack Kornfield: You can do things out of guilt that are good, but that doesn’t alleviate your own suffering. What we’re really asking ourselves here is how do we act in a way that both brings goodness and benefit to other people, but that also releases all the suffering we carry in our own hearts? To do that, you have to pay some attention to yourself.

Our motivation, I find, is always mixed. When I was young, I used to give a lot of gifts to people, because I wanted them to like me. Then I noticed how egotistical and yucky that was, and I felt I didn’t want to do that anymore. So I stopped giving anything to anyone, and then after a while that felt worse. I finally realized my motivations were going to be mixed. So, I decided to give things but also to pay attention, so that I would not simply be giving because I felt insecure and wanted somebody to like me. I could also become aware of the simple pleasure of giving something to someone else.

Pema Chödrön: And of course, after you apply mindfulness to that act for just a little while, you find out that most of the time the recipients aren’t thankful anyway, and they don’t like you better for it. You never got what you wanted in the first place. So your plan is working. [Laughter]

Jack Kornfield: And then you relax.

Pema Chödrön: You could get very resentful that you gave and gave and gave and then they didn’t thank you, or you could see the humor in the whole thing. That’s your choice.

Michael Krasny: The other day I was driving on the freeway and I cut someone off. He stopped his car, got out, and started coming toward me with a look of anger, like he wanted to hit me. I made a conciliatory gesture and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry.” It stopped him in his tracks and he just turned around and drove away. That was strange, because my initial reaction was, if this guy wants to fight me, bring it on! [Laughter]

Pema Chödrön: We are experts at escalation, adding more kerosene to the fire. To de-escalate the cycle of suffering takes courage, because the urge to do what you always do—scream, cry, hit, whatever—is like a magnet. It’s pulling you down like the undertow. To hold your ground and be nonaggressive takes courage. Doing that doesn’t have to be called Buddhism. This is also what Martin Luther King taught. We are talking about the ideal of a beloved community. Nobody is healed until everyone is healed.

Jack Kornfield: Even though we’re talking very personally about what we’re doing when we’re talking to someone in pain, or when we’re driving or standing in line at the ticket counter, there is a very important political dimension to our experience. We need to deal not only with the aggression we see all around us in the world, but also with fear. Particularly since 9/11, we see fear of the other so clearly.

When we see the other person stop the car and come toward us, underneath our aggression, there is a fear about whether we can tolerate their anger. It is necessary to make friends with fear. What is our response going to be to the fact that the world is uncertain, and that sometimes bad and painful things happen? Are we going to be aggressive in a collective way, or is there a kind of wisdom that we can bring to the world?

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about how when the boats carrying Vietnamese refugees encountered storms or pirates, if everybody panicked, all would be lost. But if even one person could stay calm on the boat, that was enough. It showed the way for everybody else.

There’s a tremendous political task, a courage that’s asked of us in these times, like Martin Luther King would ask of us, a courage not to be reactive, both in the political sense and in the personal, although I’m not sure you ever separate them.

Michael Krasny: When King marched through Cicero, Illinois, he said he had never seen such hatred, unmasked and naked. How does one work with compassion and wisdom in the face of hatred like that or the hatred of suicide bombers?

Pema Chödrön: Well, what did Martin Luther King do?

Michael Krasny: Turned the other cheek.

Pema Chödrön: He did more than that. He resisted the hatred, went against it. He wanted everyone to be cured of the disease of hatred—the victims of the disease and those who had the disease. The whole idea was that you were going to get kicked in the head; you were going to be called names. You kept in mind that these things that were usually going to trigger and provoke you were a kind of illness, and the only way to cure the illness was not to retaliate.

Jack Kornfield: And yet it’s not passive. Gandhi said if he had to choose between passivity, which he equated with cowardice, and violence, he would choose violence. What he chose, what King chose—and what we’re called on to choose in this time, personally or collectively—was to be present with a lot of courage. King said to his adversaries, “We will wear you down by our capacity to suffer, to face suffering, and still not stop, still march, still tell the truth, still do what’s necessary to make the change.” Not being reactive is not being passive. It’s not a kind of stupidity, holding back or being disinterested, removing oneself from the world. Real equanimity isn’t indifference. It’s the capacity to be present with your whole being and not add fuel to the fire.

 

Authenticity Is The Path To Freedom

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Oldspeak: “It takes backbone to lead the life you want…” –Richard Yates

Such a beautiful post. Resonates with me very deeply. AY AY AY! Soooo much time and energy spent pleasing and conforming to how others think you should be. So much needless hurt and suffering experienced. When intuitive beings I came into contact with identified and pointed to the inauthentic they perceived in me, I honestly had no clue what they were talking about. I was quite certain I was being “myself”, whatever that was. So many masks and lies created. So much needless fear and misery generated. Sankaras galore manifesting physically… Ooof the inner work done via yoga and meditation has been essential for deprogramming, decolonizing and deconstructing decades of the inauthentic false self I’d carefully crafted. The process of letting go all that I’ve believed to be true has been humbling and enlightening. Grateful for the experience. I encourage you all to get to know your authentic selves and know the freedom of just being You. Sat NAM!”

Zen Warrior

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” –Bruce Lee

young boy chain fenceWe are never truly free until we are fully authentic in our lives. Authentic in who we are and what we stand for indifferent to the judgement and opinions around us. Authentic in our thoughts and our actions. Too often our lives are spent trying to cater to the expectations of another. We make decisions and take action based on the thoughts and opinions of the people in our lives. We are imprisoned in the masks that we wear far away from our authentic self, the inner being within us, our source. Our inner being is free of judgment and fear. Our authentic self is not confined by our sex, status, or race. It is not confined by some defined role, or predestined life. It…

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